Grinding Teeth: What’s the Cause of It and How to Deal With it?

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People have many unique behaviors. Some can be amusing, some people talk in their sleep, which can be interesting, and some eat in their sleep, which can be dangerous. These uncommon behaviors have an underlying reason, and by knowing that underlying reason, people can manage the behavior.

One of the most abnormal but common behaviors among Americans is bruxism. It's the grinding of teeth that can lead to many problems. Here are the causes and how you can deal with them.

What is Bruxism?

Bruxism is the grinding of teeth and the clenching of jaws. It can happen during the day or at night, but most people do it at night without knowing it. It can cause many problems like headaches, earaches, pain in the jaw and neck, and even tooth loss.

There are two types of bruxism:

  • Awake bruxism: This is when you clench your teeth during the day. It might be because of stress or anxiety.
  • Sleep bruxism: This is when you grind your teeth at night. It's usually because of an abnormal bite or missing teeth.

Sadly, most people who have bruxism don't know they have it. It's an unconscious behavior which means people do it without knowing. The only way to find out is if someone tells you or if you have symptoms.

Among the two forms of bruxism, sleep bruxism is the most identifiable. People grinding their teeth at night often will wake up with a headache or an earache. The pain can be so severe that it causes them to wake up from sleep. People sleeping next to them can also inform them about this abnormality.

Causes of Bruxism

Many things can cause bruxism. It could be genetic due to stress, an abnormal bite, or missing teeth. It can also be caused by medical conditions like Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, GERD, and sleep apnea.

Drugs can also cause bruxism like cocaine, amphetamines, and alcohol. Smoking cigarettes can also cause it.


Genetics plays a role in bruxism. For example, if you have a family member who grinds their teeth, you're more likely to do it.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress is another significant factor in bruxism. When people are stressed, their body goes into fight-or-flight mode. It's when the muscles in our body tense up to prepare for action. The jaw is one of the places where people hold stress, so it's not surprising that people grind their teeth when they're stressed.

Anxiety can also cause bruxism. People with anxiety disorders often have trouble relaxing. For example, they might grind their teeth during the day or night because they can't relax.

Abnormal Bite or Missing Teeth

An abnormal bite is when your teeth don't line up the way they're supposed to. It can be caused by an injury, tooth loss, or gum disease. When you have an abnormal bite, it can stress your jaws and teeth. In addition, an abnormal bite can lead to bruxism.

Missing teeth can also cause bruxism. The other teeth can shift out of place when you have missing teeth. Shifting teeth can result in an abnormal bite which then leads to bruxism.

Medical Conditions

Many medical conditions can cause bruxism. Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder that affects the nerves in your brain. This can cause muscle tremors which can lead to teeth grinding.

Alzheimer's disease is another medical condition that can cause bruxism. It's a type of dementia that affects the brain. People with Alzheimer's often have trouble sleeping, and they might grind their teeth because of it.

Sleep apnea is a condition where people stop breathing for short periods during their sleep. This can cause them to wake up often, and they might grind their teeth because of it.

Drugs, Alcohol, and Smoking

Cocaine, amphetamines, and alcohol are all drugs that can cause bruxism. They're all stimulants that can keep people awake and increase their anxiety levels. It can eventually lead to teeth grinding.

A dentist giving a mouthguard


Thankfully, bruxism is a treatable and manageable unconscious behavior. One of the first steps you should take is to protect your teeth from the behavior. Visiting the dentist can help you get fitted for a mouthguard. Mouthguards are designed to protect your teeth from grinding. They're usually made of soft plastic, and they fit over your teeth. You can wear them at night to prevent damage to your teeth.

If stress or anxiety is the cause of your bruxism, then you should try to find ways to reduce your stress levels. You can do this by exercising, meditating, or getting therapy.

You should also avoid drugs, alcohol, and smoking. If you can't avoid them altogether, try to limit your use.

Bruxism is a treatable condition. If you think you have it, talk to your dentist or doctor. They can help you find the proper treatment for you.

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