Why Am I Grinding My Teeth?


One of the most vexing problems related to oral health is bruxism, or grinding one’s teeth. It can be difficult to figure out what is going on initially because many patients only have grinding episodes in their sleep. In fact, many cases of bruxism are discovered because a patient’s partner or roommate complains about the noise from their teeth grinding!

Why Teeth Grinding Happens

  • Stress is a major contributor to bruxism – About 70 percent of all cases of teeth grinding are believed to be caused by stress. In those instances, it’s important to address the underlying stressors, as well as prevent any damage from occurring in the mouth from the grinding.
  • Sleep disorders can also influence the development of teeth-grinding behavior – Recently, researchers have discovered links between sleep disorders and oral health. Studies have shown people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which causes a patient’s breathing to be interrupted while they sleep, are more likely to grind their teeth while they’re asleep. Other sleep challenges, such as sleep paralysis or talking/shouting in one’s sleep, can be related to the presence of bruxism.
  • Some medications can cause bruxism – Bruxism can occur as a side effect of taking certain medications, such as antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs.
  • Bruxism can occur as a result of a “bad bite” – If your top and bottom teeth are badly aligned, or you have missing or crooked teeth, this can also contribute to teeth-grinding behavior. This cause of bruxism can be determined by your dentist performing an occlusal analysis.

Consequences of Teeth-Grinding

It’s important for your oral health to get a case of bruxism treated. Teeth grinding can contribute to the following conditions:

  • Temporomandibular (TMJ) muscle and joint disorders, including arthritis
  • Earache
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Hot, cold, or sweet sensitivity in the teeth
  • Wearing down or even cracking/breaking the teeth

In addition to helping you learn to manage the stress that may be causing your bruxism, your dentist may recommend a mouth guard or splint to prevent nighttime teeth grinding, braces (if your bite is off), or surgery to correct the problem.

“Bruxism may seem mysterious, and can be quite painful to experience, but your dentist can help you overcome this challenge to your oral health,” says Dr. Carol Ford, a cosmetic dentist practicing in central Phoenix.


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