5 Causes Of Teeth Grinding; Obvious And Not So Obvious


Bruxism is a known medical complaint with known symptoms and cures, but despite that there is a lot that is still not fully known about the condition and that is still being researched by medical science. At present, doctors believe that there are a number of different causes for the condition. Some of them are straightforward and predictable, but there are other reasons which are not so obvious; if you suspect that you may have problems with teeth grinding in sleep but you don’t fit the obvious profile of a sufferer, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have Bruxism.

Here we will have a look at the obvious and not so obvious causes of Bruxism, and explain why these factors are so important to an understanding of the condition. These are the causes that have been agreed upon by a majority of doctors dealing with patients who have reported problems with teeth grinding. It may well be that there are other causes, but as of yet these have not been pinpointed by medical research. These may help you get a little further in understanding why you are having problems, but if none of these apply you should still see a doctor about Bruxism.

StressCertainly stress is the most common cause of Bruxism for patients who seek help for the condition. Stress is likely to make us clench our teeth no matter what the time of day, as jaw clenching is one of the body’s most natural reactions to stress. Effectively, our body is setting us up in a defensive posture – speak out of turn to a person under stress and you will see this defensive nature in action – which means our muscles become tensed, and in particular our jaws. This leads to clenching and grinding of our teeth.

You might think that when you are asleep, the muscles would naturally relax. But then bear in mind that when we sleep we dream (even if we do not remember the dreams), which is believed to be our brain’s way of filing away the day’s memories. If we have experienced a stressful day, we will relive these stresses in our sleep and when we do we are likely to clench our jaws without knowing it. Most Bruxism sufferers are also people with high levels of stress, and beating stress is thought to be a key to beating the condition.

Frustration – Similarly to stress, we are likely to clench when we are frustrated. Frustration is more or less a kind of suppressed anger which becomes internalised. All of us, at one time or another, have a situation which we cannot change and which irks us. This is why, and when, we get frustrated. We cannot let this anger out and therefore we become frustrated. It is, to use a well-worn phrase, like banging our head against a brick wall. Instead of our anger going anywhere productive, we clench our teeth and we bear it.

Aggression – Aggression is in a lot of ways the flip side of the coin to frustration. While someone who is frustrated will let the annoyance or anger be built up inside them, an aggressive person will express that anger, not necessarily in a healthy way. Whether it is by using physical violence or by screaming and shouting, an aggressive person will direct their anger at someone or something. It may not even be physically directed at the source of their anger, but merely at the person unfortunate enough to be closest to them at the time.

When we go to sleep, we relive our day and if we relive an incident that has brought out our aggression we will often subconsciously mirror the angry stance we took earlier in the day. This is another outing for the “fight or flight” instinct, which is in this case tilted towards “fight” and in doing so causes us to clench muscles including our jaw. Learning how to channel our negative energy is a major key to beating Bruxism because it is the only way we will avoid the negative emotions which go hand in hand with clenching your teeth.

Problems With Teeth Alignment – This can happen in childhood or adulthood, and in children may be related to the changes taking place with your teeth. When our teeth grow, it sometimes causes the upper and lower molars to not fit together. To try and make it happen the teeth will grind together. In adults, a problem known as malocclusion is seen as a possible, but not definite, cause of Bruxism. Another cause in children may simply be when a new tooth is growing through and it causes the gum to itch, and the child grinds to relieve that itching.

An Underlying Medical Condition – There are other illnesses which can have Bruxism as a symptom, although these are not among the most common causes of the condition and if you find that you are grinding your teeth at night it is not a reason to panic. Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease both affect a person’s movements in different ways, affecting the motor skills and the co-ordination respectively. In both cases, it is more than probable that the patient will grind their teeth – not just in their sleep but also during the day.

There are some other potential causes which at the moment require some more research. One such is the use of certain medications, particularly in the case of anti-depressants and other psychiatric medicines. May doctors believe that these drugs may have Bruxism as a side effect – in cases where this is believed to be happening it may be best to simply manage the Bruxism as taking away the medication could have severe negative effects on the person’s mental well-being. Additionally, stimulant recreational drugs are also believed to have a teeth-grinding side effect.

Not every known cause of Bruxism, nor the speculated causes, will have an immediate answer in terms of treatment. Sometimes, the best short-term approach will be to manage the condition while looking for a way to change the person’s situation. All treatment options should be discussed closely with a doctor with full input from the patient, as information is our strongest tool against Bruxism.

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