What Causes Teeth Grinding? (And How To Prevent It)

Have you ever woken up in the morning with a stiff jaw and aching teeth? Don’t be fooled – it’s not just your imagination playing tricks on you. It’s actually a common dental concern known as bruxism, or teeth grinding, and it can even happen when you’re awake.

Patients that visit our Berwick dental clinic often want to know what causes bruxism, and how they can solve the issue. We are answering these common questions about teeth grinding in this blog.

Firstly, how do you know if you’re grinding your teeth?

The main concern with teeth grinding is that it often occurs in the patient’s sleep, which makes it difficult to detect. In many cases, it’s actually the partner or parent of the patient that notices the grinding is occurring.

For some people however, teeth grinding occurs subconsciously while they are awake. For example, some people grind their teeth while they are concentrating or feeling anxious. Others may grind their teeth when they are frustrated or angry.

In any case, the habit of teeth grinding elicits a range of symptoms. It is important to take note of these symptoms so that you can receive treatment for teeth grinding as soon as possible. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Loose teeth
  • Cracked or chipped tooth enamel
  • Tooth-shaped indentations on the tongue
  • Headaches, jaw pains and/or an earache
  • Aching teeth, jaws and/or temples
  • Stiffness of the face
  • Clenching of the jaw when frustrated
  • Teeth that are sensitive to temperature change.


Why teeth grinding should be taken seriously

When your dentist informs you that you are grinding your teeth, initially it may not sound so bad – especially if you compare it to other dental issues such as tooth decay, which most people have learned about at school. However, teeth grinding is responsible for a number of serious dental issues, such as:

  • Greater stress on your teeth, causing more wear and tear
  • Tooth breakages or tooth damage requiring repair
  • Greater temperature sensitivity due to cracked enamel
  • Pain in the jaw joint and muscles.

In some rare cases, tooth grinding can even cause tooth loss or enlargement of the jaw muscles.


What actually causes teeth grinding?

Surprisingly, there’s actually a range of reasons why you might be experiencing bruxism. Some of these include:

  • Emotional stress and/or anxiety
  • The wrong diet and not drinking enough water
  • As a side effect of certain medication, such as antidepressants
  • It runs in your family (genetic)
  • External factors such as smoking, alcohol and some drugs.

Another common cause of teeth grinding is a misaligned jaw or bad tooth alignment. A misaligned jaw can block the airway during sleep. Teeth grinding moves the jaws and opens the airway again, allowing the patient to breathe. Therefore, teeth grinding occurs all night, as this is how the body receives air. Some dental professionals refer to this as the ‘root cause’ of teeth grinding that occurs during sleep.


What you can do to prevent teeth grinding

While there are things you can do at home or in your own time to reduce the effects of teeth grinding, the best thing you can do to treat it is visiting your dentist. Professional advice is the key to protecting your dental health. These are some reasons why you should visit your dentist in order to treat and prevent teeth grinding:

  • They can assess any damage closely. With the specialised dental equipment available, your dentist can inspect your teeth for any signs of damage caused by teeth grinding. For example, they can see exactly how the habit has affected your enamel. If there is any repairable damage, the dentist can also recommend or administer treatments that will restore your teeth.
  • They can offer temporary solutions to the issue. One of these solutions is known as a bite splint. It is a mouth guard that is designed to fit your teeth perfectly. Wearing the bite splint at night can reduce the symptoms of teeth grinding and help to protect your enamel. However, the only way to know whether you need a bite splint, or to acquire one, is to visit your dentist, who can either help create your bite splint or refer you to an appropriate service.
  • They can help to cure teeth grinding altogether. In the case that your teeth grinding is caused by a misaligned jaw or badly aligned teeth, your dentist is the best person to consult. They can recommend treatments that will achieve jaw and/or tooth alignment, thus preventing your teeth from grinding during sleep.


Eden Rise Dental is a Berwick dental clinic that offers general dentistry as well as more specialised services, such as orthodontic treatments and root canal therapy. Our team of friendly and professional dentists are able to give you detailed reports on your dental health and will recommend appropriate treatments from there. Drop by our Berwick dental clinic or simply call (03) 9702 6111 to schedule an appointment today.