Teeth Grinding Explained: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment Options

Bruxism is the clinical term for teeth grinding. It affects 8% of adults and 15% of children and often happens for no reason. However, in some cases, it is found to be the result of stress or anxiety. No matter what the cause, bruxism can lead to dental problems, earache, headache, insomnia, and depression.

This article will outline some of the causes, symptoms, and treatments for teeth grinding and help you answer the question, “What is teeth grinding?” Plus, as you’ll find out below, your dentist is also a good resource if you suffer from bruxism and can help with solutions to alleviate the side effects that come with grinding.

Types of Teeth Grinding

Within the condition known as bruxism, there are two types of teeth grinding. Awake bruxism is the most common type and happens when people are awake. Treatment is usually easier because sufferers can participate in resolving it. 

Sleep bruxism happens at night, so it often interrupts sleep. It is also harder to treat since people often aren’t aware of the behavior. This type of bruxism is also usually more severe and is associated with sleep apnea and other disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Now let’s explore what causes teeth grinding.

Causes of Teeth Grinding

Research indicates that there may be a genetic component to teeth grinding. If it affected your parents or siblings, you are more likely to grind your teeth, too. 

Here are some of the most common causes medical professionals have found for teeth grinding:

  • Stress: People grind their teeth due to anxiety, pain, and frustration. 
  • Diet: Some research indicates having a vitamin D or calcium deficiency can lead to teeth grinding.
  • Neurotransmitter imbalance: Research indicates that an imbalance of neurotransmitters in your body can play a role in teeth grinding.
  • Medications: Fluoxetine (Prozac) and paroxetine (Paxil) as well as other medications for anxiety and depression can trigger bruxism.
  • Lifestyle choices: Smoking, overuse of alcohol and caffeine, and taking drugs like ecstasy and cocaine have been found to cause users to grind their teeth.

It’s also useful to know that teeth grinding is common in children and teenagers during sleep. It often stops when their adult teeth have come through. Discuss this with your dentist if your child grinds their teeth during the night.

Symptoms of Teeth Grinding

If you’re not sure that you grind your teeth, here are some of the things to look for:

  • Ear pain
  • Insomnia
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Eating disorders
  • Damaged enamel 
  • Face and jaw tension
  • Pain in your face or jaw
  • Tongue and cheek damage 
  • Depression, anxiety, and stress
  • Dislocation or locking of the jaw
  • Headache, particularly in the morning
  • Chipped, cracked, or worn-down teeth
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) clicking, discomfort, or pain

It’s important to consult with your primary care doctor and your dentist for a medical diagnosis, but these symptoms are often associated with grinding your teeth. They will talk to you about your sleep and lifestyle habits to determine the extent of the problem and what treatments are right for you. In many cases, a mouthguard at night will eliminate the problem.

If you notice that you start grinding your teeth after beginning a new medication, talk to the healthcare provider who prescribed it. Changes in the medication may end the teeth grinding. If you begin having pain when you open your mouth or there is sudden tooth pain, see your healthcare provider or dentist for help. Don’t ignore symptoms like this. 

In some cases of sleep bruxism, a sleep study (polysomnogram) may be prescribed. This can help achieve a definitive diagnosis to determine if you are, in fact, grinding teeth in your sleep and how it is affecting the quality of your sleep. After the study is completed, your medical or dental team will advise you on how to tackle the problem.

Treatment for Teeth Grinding

Once you begin to notice some of the symptoms of bruxism, talk to your dentist to determine if treatment is needed. Ignoring the symptoms can lead to more serious dental problems, which means more time and money spent on treatment. A mouthguard is often the solution but you won’t know until the problem is addressed.

Once you get help from your medical or dental providers, they may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

Wearing a Mouth Guard 

Grinding teeth can put up to 250 pounds of force on your teeth and jaw. A customized mouthguard will absorb some of this pressure and can be used both while awake and asleep.

Behavior Changes

After talking with you, your doctor or dentist may discuss behavior changes like relaxation techniques for your face, jaw, and teeth. Giving up drugs and alcohol will also help, as will smoking cessation.

Biofeedback Therapy 

Biofeedback is a mind-body therapy that teaches you to change how your body functions. While in a biofeedback session, you will be connected to monitoring equipment and instruments that a practitioner uses to evaluate your body’s functions. You are then taught how to change negative body functions like teeth grinding.

Medication Changes

In many instances, a change in your current medication regime will eliminate teeth grinding. In other cases, the addition of a medication to help your body regulate neurotransmitters can be effective.

You Can Rely On TLC Dental Center For Help With Teeth Grinding

As you can see, teeth grinding, or bruxism, can damage your teeth but can also lead to more serious complications, such as headaches, insomnia, and depression. There is no definitive answer about what causes you to grind your teeth, but it is believed that stress and anxiety play a role. 

In many cases, a mouthguard is all that is needed to resolve the problem. Although there are a number of other treatments available to you through your doctor or dentist.

Your dental team here at TLC Dental Center is ready to assist you with teeth grinding and its consequences. Don’t let the problem get worse! Contact us today to get started!