Teeth Grinding Causes

Bruxism – Is There a Chance You Have It?

Teeth grinding is something that not many of us seem to take too seriously; however, this activity can lead to dental issues if not taken care of at an early stage. This clenching or grinding of teeth is known as bruxism, and this condition is known to affect many people throughout the globe, so much so that this health disorder has been ranked third in the list of sleep disorders. As stated in Wikipedia, bruxism “is an oral para-functional activity that occurs in most humans at some point in their lives”. People suffering from bruxism may, intentionally or unintentionally, clench their teeth at any point of the day.

Extensive medical and scientific research in this area has led us to the conclusion that although bruxism is a common disorder, the side effects associated with it are mild to none in nature, and in many cases, no treatment may required. Nonetheless, one must not conclude that there are no harmful side effects at all. An article written by the Mayo Clinic staff on this issue confirms that severe cases of bruxism can eventually lead to headaches, mouth disorders, dental problems, and many more.


Causes of Teeth Grinding

Although bruxism is equally common in people of all ages, professionals from various fields attribute different reasons for its origin. While doctors largely believe that stress and anxiety are amongst the major causes of this disorder, dentists are of the opinion that bruxism is a result of improper teeth alignment. Below, we classify the different causes of this ailment, while also explaining each of them.


Mental and Emotional Causes

Doctors believe that emotional and mental factors are the most widespread triggers of bruxism, especially when the disease has been associated with certain severe health concerns. These include depression, migraine headaches and morning headaches, only to name a few. Mike Kay, in his article “Bruxism and Depression – Is there a Link” states that there have been several studies that confirm the relation of this disease with an individual’s mind state. With that said, let us now take a brief look at some of the major factors that are responsible for the occurrence of bruxism.

1. Stress and anxiety – It’s not a secret that the modern lifestyle is stressful and fast at times. The stress and pressure also shows in the mouth. More and more people grind their teeth, during the day but mostly at night[1].

Research has found that bruxism has developed as a way for the body to mitigate stress. The masticatory organ (collective term for the jaw, teeth, tongue, and facial muscles that surround the jaw) has evolved in humans from a weapon for showing aggression in times of stress (for example, roaring in order to scare off a predator) to a tool of emotional management. This may also explain why some people overeat when stressed, or bite their fingernails when nervous.

Bruxing is a subconscious attempt to decrease stress levels. Rats brux too – it was shown that bruxing decreased the effects of stress on their bodies[2]. See Treatments for natural stress relief techniques. If anxiety is the problem, the relaxation techniques in Treatmentsshould help to lessen it.

One example of stress-related bruxism is the the recent global financial crunch: It not only hit the economy, but it also had a direct impact on our health. An article in The Telegraph reports that teeth grinding cases have increased during the recession, stress clearly being the major responsible factor here.

Another example is in the state of Israel: The deteriorating security and economy in the last few years have affected the population and dentists have been diagnosing more and more people with bruxism[1]. With some sufferers, the dentist has pointed out the problem, but because the symptoms did not get worse, they did not require any treatment. Nevertheless, in times of tension, people have reported that the condition returned and they wake up in the morning with strong pains in their mouth and teeth and also with headaches. At times they are even unable to control the problem and they wake up with pains.

2. Anger – suppressed or expresse – Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in the USA found this as a cause of tooth grinding[3]. People who feel frustration or anger, yet cannot express it, may clench their teeth daily and nightly. Those who do express their anger in the form of aggression towards others, also clench their jaws subconsciously[4]. If this is the cause of your bruxism, you may need to see a counsellor in order to manage your anger in a healthy way.



3. Discomfort – Discomfort during sleep – caused by a full bladder or bunched bed sheets – seems to be an easily-resolvable cause of bruxism, going by the success of one elaborate treatment in which sleepers were woken at the occurrence of bruxism, and made to go to the toilet and remake the bed, before they could go back to sleep again[5].

Other Causes – Researchers from Mayo clinic in the USA have pointed out a few reasons for the causes of teeth grinding, such as tiredness, tension, frustration, an aggressive personality, or a hyperactive or competitive personality[3].


Physical Causes

The causes of bruxism that are related to what’s in your body and what you put into it. Briefly described below are some common physical causes of bruxism.

1. Growth of new teeth – When babies are growing their first teeth and young children are growing their adult teeth, the resulting pain and discomfort can cause them to brux at night [3]. See Bruxism in children for more information on children’s bruxism.



2. Genetic – Professor Esther Gazit [1], Head of Department for functional problems of the masticatory system in the School of Dentistry at Tel Aviv University, believes that genetic factors are responsible for the bruxism. That is, if the parents are bruxers, the kids are likely to be bruxers too.


3. Medication and drugs – Prescription medicines such as antidepressants and those used to treat ADD and ADHD may induce bruxism. Taking the drug Ecstasy can also cause bruxism [2].



4. Illness – Diseases of the nervous system, such as Parkinson’s, and of the neural system, such as Huntington’s, are thought to cause bruxism in the sufferer. It would be wise to take minor illnesses such as flu, fever and cold seriously, since they can also cause discomfort, eventually leading to bruxism.


5. Eating habits – One basic dietary deficiency that can occur and be remedied very easily is dehydration. Dehydration causes headaches, dry skin (and lessened ability to sweat in order to cool the body down in high temperatures), constipation and dry mouth, all of which are uncomfortable when sleeping and may cause the sufferer to brux. A high level of caffeine in the body, from consuming coffee, cola, energy drinks or chocolate; as well as drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes, are also known causes[2]. Poor diet and allergies such as asthma and rhinitis may contribute.

6. Teeth misalignment – This condition is medically termed as malocclusion, and refers to improper alignment of teeth. Bad alignment of teeth may cause them to involuntarily grind during sleep. This may only be remedied by seeing an orthodontist and getting the teeth straightened. On the other hand, your teeth may be more or less straight, but there might be irregular contact between the top and bottom teeth caused by a slightly protruding filling, a wisdom tooth, or an irregularly shaped tooth [2]. In this case, your dentist can replace the filling, extract the wisdom tooth, or file the tooth down a bit.

Other causes – Researchers from Mayo clinic in the USA have pointed out abnormal structure of the jaw as a cause of teeth grinding.



  1. Yahav, R. (2007). Everything About Tooth Grinding. In beOk. Retrieved October 2, 2008, from [With the kind help of translation services]
  2. Sato, S., Sasaguri, K., Ootsuka, T., et. al. (n.d.) Bruxism and Stress Relief.
  3. Naor, R. (2002). Grinding Your Teeth. In NRG Health Magazine. Retrieved September 25, 2008, from [With the kind help of translation services]
  4. Wikipedia, Bruxism from
  5. Piccione, A., Coates, T. J., George, J. M., et. al. (1982). Nocturnal Biofeedback for Nocturnal Bruxism. Biofeedback and Self-Regulation, 7(4), 405-419.




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