Teeth grinding, technically termed bruxism, is when a person clenches their jaw or grinds their teeth together. Millions of people are suspected to suffer from this condition, which can have serious consequences for our dental health. Bruxism can not only cause tooth fractures, gum inflammation, and jaw pain, but can eventually lead to tooth loss.
But why do we grind our teeth? The answer won’t always be the same for everyone, and is usually more complex than people realize. Below are some of the top reasons we may grind our teeth!
Stress and anxiety are major causes of bruxism. People who grind their teeth due to stress may not realize they have this habit, or may clench or grind their teeth only when asleep.
Unfortunately, ignoring the problem won’t make it go away, and can even make teeth grinding worse . To know for sure if stress could be causing your jaw pain or sensitive teeth, schedule an appointment with your dentist to rule out other potential causes first. Then, you can begin to put stress reduction techniques in place to hopefully curb this bad habit!
An Abnormal Bite
Our teeth are not meant to knock against each other—instead, when closing our mouths completely, our top and bottom rows of teeth should rest against each other in a way that’s natural and comfortable. Having an abnormal bite such as a crossbite, open bite, overbite, or underbite can cause discomfort and disharmony in the jaw, and can lead to teeth grinding . A simple x-ray and exam with your dentist can tell if you have a misaligned bite that could be influencing your teeth grinding habit.
For reasons that aren’t quite known, research links sleep disorders such as those seen in sleep apnea with teeth grinding . Snoring and fatigue—two common symptoms of sleep apnea—have also been linked to bruxism. If you snore, have excessive daytime fatigue, or frequently wake up with a headache or dry mouth, it’s time to visit your dentist for an evaluation and potential referral for a sleep disorder.
Other research has linked certain substances such as caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco to teeth grinding . Although more evidence is needed to support these substances as a potential cause of bruxism, the risk for heavy coffee drinkers (those who drank more than eight cups of coffee daily) increased 1.5 times, while for smokers and alcohol drinkers, the risk for bruxism increased twofold. You may consider telling your dentist if you consume a lot of caffeine or alcohol, or use tobacco products.
For some people still, their teeth grinding will be a combination of the things listed above. Only your dentist can help you identify the cause and come up with a treatment plan. You should never ignore bruxism, as over time, it can severely damage your smile. Getting help sooner rather than later can make all the difference and could even save your teeth!