Why Do We Grind Our Teeth?

Image of young woman holding her head in frustration and grinding her teeth.

What is teeth grinding?

Teeth grinding is a common, unintentional habit in both kids and adults. If you’ve ever woken up with a jaw and mouth that feels sore and tight, you’ve likely been grinding your tight through the middle of the night.

Patients grind their teeth for many reasons, from stress and anxiety to crooked teeth and abnormal jaw bites. Teeth grinding, or bruxism, can develop at any stage in life, depending on life changes and daily tasks. Imagine the desk-worker, thinking hard to solve a problem, forcefully contracting the jaw muscles or biting down on a pen, not aware of the strain on the mouth.  Similarly, imagine the worker lifting heavy equipment, clenching their jaw as the carry or shuttle machinery from one end of the room to the other.

Most common causes of teeth grinding:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Caffeine
  • Depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Snoring
  • Obstructed sleep

Although there are many potential causes of teeth grinding, the most overwhelming association is with stress and anxiety. Over 70 percent of patients grind their teeth as a direct of cause of stress and anxiety. Reducing daily stress is the best way to reduce likelihood of grinding.

What are the symptoms of teeth grinding?

Teeth grinding causes a range of symptoms, most of which cause patients a great deal of discomfort. Some of the most common symptoms:

  • Facial pain, expressive in many regions of the face
  • Headaches. People who grind their teeth are three times as likely to suffer from headaches.
  • Muscle aches, caused by a tightening of the facial and neck muscles when the muscles need to be resting.
  • Enlargement of facial muscles. You might notice bulging side jaws on teeth-grinders.
  • Temporomandibular joint discomfort, or TMJ
  • Stiff shoulders and neck
  • Ear pain
  • Worn down teeth

The effects of teeth grinding triggers a vicious cycle. Patients wake up with headaches, aching necks, and stiff jaws, making it more difficult to comfortably get through a day of work. Sleep has been disrupted so often, caffeine is used to supplement patient energy. Caffeine combines with the stress of not being able to focus sufficiently, and the two make a recipe for teeth grinding again that night.

How can I stop teeth grinding?

The first approach to stopping teeth grinding is to target the root of the cause. Work with your dentist to determine whether you are grinding due to misalignments in the mouth or as a result of stress and anxiety. Once your dentist understands why you are grinding, they can customize a treatment plan to relax the mouth during sleep.

Should I wear a mouth guard?

To prevent wear and tear on the teeth while your stride toward a tooth grinding solution, impact mouthguards are highly recommended. Dentists at Doral Family Dentistry work to create custom mouthguards that suits patients’ specifics needs and symptoms.

Once appropriate methods are taken to alleviate the tendency to grind teeth, symptoms such as facial pain and headaches will begin to dissipate. However, some patients are left with permanent damage from years of grinding. If there is troublesome wear and tear of the tooth, dental treatments are necessary to remedy the defects in the mouth.

If you suffer from symptoms of teeth grinding, looking into mouthguards in the first step to take in protect your mouth. Come into Doral Sedation and Family Dentistry for a comprehensive evaluation and customized approach to reducing grinding tendencies and consequent effects.

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