What Causes Teeth Grinding?

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What causes teeth grinding?

If you’re someone who struggles with teeth grinding, clenching, or morning jaw pain, you know it isn’t fun. Not only is it not fun, but it can also damage your teeth, keep you from sleeping, and cause widespread pain. Thankfully, you don’t have to endure this pain forever. Today we’ll talk about what causes teeth grinding and how you can solve it.

Teeth grinding, medically known as bruxism, is a somewhat common sleep movement disorder. Affecting close to 15% of the population, bruxism isn’t something new. However, what causes teeth grinding is still new and uncertain knowledge. Experts are still researching what causes teeth grinding, and they’re finding a few things they didn’t expect.

For one, they’ve found a few different potential categories for what causes teeth grinding. This means that the “cause” is not yet clear. Researchers are looking at three main causes of teeth grinding. These causes are lifestyle factors, sleep disorders, and general stress or anxiety.

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What causes teeth grinding: Lifestyle?

When it comes to lifestyle factors, there a few things that researchers have found to be related to teeth grinding. Primarily, research has shown that bruxism is higher in those who use certain psychoactive substances. 

For example, medications for sleep, depression, or anxiety are all considered psychoactive substances, in this case. Similarly, those who smoke, drink, or consume caffeine are at a higher risk for bruxism. Other lifestyle circumstances like age and education also seem to have an effect on bruxism.

What causes teeth grinding: Sleep Disorders?

Sleep disorders also play a role in bruxism. Those with sleep apnea commonly suffer from bruxism. Similarly, other sleep disorders may be related to bruxism based on patient reports. However, when it comes to sleep disorders, experts consider sleep apnea the most common risk factor for teeth grinding.

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What causes teeth grinding: Stress and Anxiety?

Perhaps the most important piece of the bruxism puzzle is stress and anxiety. Particularly, one study found that stress and anxiety, rather than neuroticism or other mental health issues, was related to bruxism. 

It’s estimated by some that as many as 70% of bruxism cases are related to stress and anxiety.

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Symptoms of Bruxism

There are a handful of symptoms related to bruxism. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed below, we recommend seeing a dentist or doctor about your teeth. Note that most of the symptoms can be unpleasant and uncomfortable. Some of the symptoms are even detrimental to health. If you think you may grind your teeth at night, you can reach out to us at 402-413-7141. Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with bruxism.

If you’re currently experiencing serious pain, you can find more information about managing dental pain here. If it’s an emergency, call our emergency line immediately at 402-840-9783.

Back Pain

Patients with bruxism often report back pain. While it may seem abnormal, it actually makes a lot of sense from a medical perspective. Many of the muscles in the upper body and head utilize surrounding muscles when tired. The back is a common muscle to take on the extra strain.

If you do have back pain, it might be worthwhile to see a chiropractor. You can find chiropractors in Lincoln all over town. However, we recommend seeing the good folks at Mosier Timperley Chiropractic. They’ll have you fixed up and back to good health in no time.

Headaches

In many cases, teeth grinding can result in severe headaches. Because the jaw is connected to the base of our skull, it isn’t hard to develop a headache from bruxism. However, people don’t necessarily develop headaches from general chewing or talking. On the other hand, the recurrent motion of teeth grinding and clenching can easily leave people with a headache.

Interrupted Sleep

One of the most common symptoms of bruxism is actually waking up. Many who grind their teeth will wake up throughout the night. Often, this happens without the person even being aware of their own teeth grinding. Similarly, grinding teeth can interrupt the sleep of a partner too. At times, the grinding can become so loud and abrasive that it wakes up a partner.

Jaw Pain

This one may seem obvious, but jaw pain is a major symptom of teeth grinding. If you wake up with serious jaw pain, teeth grinding is a likely cause.

Neck Pain

A stiff or sore neck is another common symptom of bruxism. When you clench your teeth, it puts a strain on more than just your jaw. Many who grind or clench their teeth also use the muscles in the neck.

Ringing Ears

Unlike many of the other symptoms, the cause of ringing ears in bruxism is still unknown. However, patients with bruxism often report ringing ears. It could have to do with the structure of nears in and around the jaw.

Sensitive Teeth

Those with sensitive teeth often feel uncomfortable with hot or cold temperatures. This is a common side effect of tooth sensitivity. Bruxism wears down the enamel, or outer layer, of teeth. In effect, it can expose the tooth’s dentin, or the layer of teeth which leads to the nerves. Typically, exposed dentin causes sensitivity due to the direct connection to the nerves.

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Stiff Shoulders

In the same way that it can affect your back, teeth grinding can lead to stiff shoulders. When the jaw is working hard, it often makes the neck work hard too. If the neck becomes overtired, it will continue down to your shoulders. For that reason, it’s not uncommon for patients to wake up with stiff or sore shoulders.

Tooth Fractures

One of the biggest dangers of teeth grinding is damage to teeth. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for bruxism patients to crack or chip their teeth. This ultimately leads to more extensive dental work in the future. If you’re afraid you may have a broken or fractured tooth, you should see your dentist immediately.

Worn-Down Teeth

Another common tooth problem associated with bruxism is wear and tear. Grinding and clenching can take a huge toll on a person’s teeth. It’s called grinding for a reason, after all! Teeth which are exposed to grinding and clenching often become worn-down. Sometimes this happens to such an extent that a person may require surgical repairs.

what causes teeth grinding during sleep

Treating Bruxism

While bruxism can be an abrasive disorder, there are a handful of solutions out there. However, because it isn’t yet known what causes teeth grinding, so it may take some time to find the perfect solution.

Another complicated matter regarding bruxism is that it can be caused by other issues. As we mentioned above, many cases of teeth grinding result from stress or anxiety. In these cases, it’s important for the doctor or dentist – or both – to treat the underlying issue.

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One common way to treat bruxism is by using a mouth guard. A mouth guard is an acrylic, or similar material, mouthpiece which patients wear at night. This mouthpiece separates the teeth from each other. While a mouth guard won’t stop a person from trying to grind their teeth at night, it will stop the teeth from making contact with each other.

Other ways professionals may treat bruxism include taking muscle relaxants before bed for a short period of time, anxiety medications, behavioral changes, or more involved treatment like biofeedback.

If nothing else works, some will treat bruxism with a botox injection into the jaw. This can reduce the strength of the masseter muscles, or the muscles in the back of the jaw. As a result, the hope is that the jaw won’t be as harsh at night. Over time, if a patient continues receiving botox injections, it will cause the muscles to shrink permanently. As a result, patients tend to need less and less botox in time.

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Tips to Improve Bruxism at Home

There are a few home remedies and other tips that may be effective for patients in reducing bruxism. Below are some things you can do to prevent teeth grinding.

  • Manage Your Stress – Because so many cases of bruxism are caused by stress, stress reduction is a great strategy for reducing your symptoms. Whether you practice yoga, exercise, meditate, or anything else, knowing how to manage your stress is key in avoiding teeth grinding.
  • Avoid Evening Stimulants – Consuming caffeine late in the day or in the evening can worsen bruxism symptoms. While it isn’t a stimulant, alcohol has also been linked to worsened teeth grinding. Avoid these to decrease the likelihood or severity of grinding your teeth at night.
  • See Your Dentist Often – Perhaps the best way to identify signs of teeth grinding is to see your dentist. In most cases, the dentist will be able to see worn-down teeth, fractures, or other signs that may indicate nighttime grinding and clenching. You’re welcome to call us at 402-413-7141, or text us at 402-413-8649.
  • Practice Good Sleep Habits – A good night’s sleep is also a great way to reduce grinding symptoms. If you have trouble sleeping at night, take the time to figure out why and fix it. This should reduce, if not eliminate, your symptoms of bruxism.

Frequently Asked Questions about What Causes Teeth Grinding

Remember, the causes of teeth grinding are still being researched. Those of us in the medical field don’t definitively know what causes teeth grinding. However, we do have a few answers that have been helpful to patients in the past. These are frequently asked questions about what causes teeth grinding.

Why do people grind their teeth?

As we mentioned above, what causes teeth grinding is still unclear to experts. The medical field has been able to agree that most cases are somehow linked with stress and/or anxiety. A second potential cause of teeth grinding is sleep disorders. Researchers estimate that about 70 million Americans have some sort of sleep disorder. These can be a risk a factor for bruxism. Finally, teeth grinding seems to be linked to certain lifestyle factors. These can include whether a person smokes, drinks caffeine or alcohol, takes certain medications, and the person’s mental health.

what causes teeth grinding in children

Is teeth grinding in children common?

Yes! Teeth grinding is fairly common in children. According to some, three out of every 10 children will grind or clench their teeth. So if your child is grinding his or her teeth, be sure to keep an eye out for stressors. These may be causing your child difficulty sleeping as well as unnecessary wear and tear on the teeth.

Is there a children’s mouth guard for grinding teeth?

While there are many different mouth guards for grinding teeth, dental labs don’t make any specifically for children. However, your Lincoln children’s dentist or pediatric specialist can help you decide if a night guard may be best for your child.

Fortunately, there are tons of different night guards, so if you do decide with the help of your dentist a night guard is best, there’s no need to worry. Most night guards will be custom for the patient, even if it’s for a child.

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If you need to see a dentist in Lincoln about grinding teeth, you can reach us by phone at 402-413-7141. If you’re more comfortable with texting, you can also text us at 402-413-8649. Finally, you can schedule online using the form at the bottom of this page. No matter how you reach out, we’ll be sure to get you or your child in as soon as possible!

How can I stop grinding my teeth naturally?

All of our tips mentioned under Tips To Improve Bruxism At Home are natural. These natural solutions are geared toward teaming your oral health with your overall health. This is what we’re all about here at Nebraska Family Dentistry. And when it comes to teeth grinding, here are some of the best natural things you can do:

    • Manage your stress
    • Avoid evening stimulants
    • See your dentist often
  • Practice good sleep habits

These will help improve your body’s contribution to sleep. Trial and error should help you find what works and what doesn’t.

How can I stop grinding teeth with home remedies?

As mentioned above, you can find plenty of suggestions under the heading Tips To Improve Bruxism At Home. These include:

    • Manage your stress
    • Avoid evening stimulants
    • See your dentist often
  • Practice good sleep habits

night guards: a what causes teeth grinding remedy

How can I stop grinding teeth without a night guard?

While there isn’t a surefire way to solve teeth grinding, your dentist will have some suggestions for you. If you don’t want a night guard, they can do their best to help you find what you need.

So, what causes teeth grinding?

In conclusion, there are tons of things which can cause you to grind your teeth. Unfortunately, we may not even know some of them yet. However, by trying different solutions listed above, you may be able to get to the bottom of your bruxism.

In health and happiness,
Dr. Kathryn Alderman
Nebraska Family Dentistry
Changing Dentistry, Changing Lives

Zachary Visconti is the editor and curator of the NFD Wellness Blog.  You can reach Dr. Kathryn Alderman, NFD‘s founder and lead dentist, at nebraskafamilydentistry@gmail.com.

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