Teeth Grinding: Causes, Effects and Prevention Techniques

Teeth Grinding: Causes, Effects and Prevention Techniques

Teeth Grinding: Causes, Effects and Prevention Techniques

Many people who grind their teeth have very little idea that they do so. This is because the vast majority of teeth clenching and grinding takes place while you are asleep. Also known as bruxism, this behavior can have serious consequences for the longevity of your teeth, as well as causing unpleasant and debilitating symptoms.

Teeth grinding: What causes it?

Experts believe that there are a variety of different factors that can contribute towards the development of bruxism in patients. However, some of the most common causes include the following:


Stress is cited as the single biggest cause of teeth grinding. This is because stress causes a natural state of tension, and when we are tense, various areas of our body contract whether we intend them to or not. You may find yourself subconsciously clenching your fists, holding your breath (contraction of the lungs) or in the case of patients with bruxism, clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth.

Patients with stressful and busy lives, or those who are going through a period of intense stress or anxiety, such as health, work or personal problem, have been shown to be at significantly greater risk of developing bruxism.

Lifestyle choices

We are in control of our lifestyle, but we don’t always make the best decisions regarding what is best for us. Many different lifestyle choices can increase the risk of developing bruxism, but particularly excessive consumption of caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs. This is because these types of substances contain ingredients which are stimulants and can initiate motor disorders causing bruxism.

Medication side effects

Side effects are a standard accompaniment of many different medications and bruxism is cited as a fairly common side effects of certain drugs including specific types of antidepressants, including sertraline and fluoxetine. If you believe that your teeth grinding may be a result of medications you are taking, it is important to speak to your doctor to see if there is an alternative drug available. Otherwise, it will be necessary for you to take steps to protect your teeth.

The effects of grinding on your teeth and beyond

If you grind your teeth when you sleep, you will eventually begin to experience a range of different symptoms which can include the following:

  • Headaches, especially first thing in the morning

  • Earache

  • Pain in the face and around the jaw

  • Stiffness in the jaw joint (potentially leading to TMD or temporomandibular joint disorder)

  • Waking tired or feeling lethargic due to poor quality sleep

  • Teeth which fracture due to the pressure on them

  • Teeth that are worn down, causing them to become more sensitive than before

Patients who grind their teeth may be found to be unsuitable for certain cosmetic dentistry procedures including porcelain veneers due to the damage that can occur to them.

Can you prevent grinding your teeth?

The good news is that there are number of different things that you can do to minimize your risk of grinding your teeth while you sleep. Some of the most common and effective treatments for bruxism include:

Mouth guards

These are soft, plastic sheaths that sit over the top of your teeth, forming a barrier between them while you sleep so that if you try and grind them, the plastic will rub against itself rather than the enamel of your teeth rubbing together. It is possible to buy generic mouth guards, but your dentist will be able to create a custom-designed version for you which will be significantly more comfortable and easier to wear. Along similar lines, you can also be fitted for a mouth splint, which also works by keeping your teeth apart.

Cutting out lifestyle habits that could be compromising your teeth

Obviously, one of the easiest ways to minimize your risk of developing bruxism is to cut back on the habits that you have that might be causing it. This means cutting back or cutting out alcohol, smoking and drinking too much caffeine, especially before bed. Even just small changes to begin with could make a big different to how much you grind your teeth while you sleep.

Reduce stress in your life

Probably easier said than done, but patients with lower stress levels are less likely to develop bruxism during their lifetime. Muscle relaxation exercises and cognitive behavior therapy can both help to reduce the amount of stress you feel, enabling you to relax your jaw and other parts of your body. Many patients also find yoga, meditation and visualization techniques helpful in reducing and eliminating stress.

If you would like more information about teeth grinding, or if you are concerned that you may be grinding your teeth and would like be arrange an appointment with one of our experienced dentists, please don’t hesitate to give Pecan Park Dental a call at 817-873-3300.