What Causes Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)?

Chronic teeth grinding and clenching is a habit that dentists refer to as “bruxism.”  It has a few different causes, some of which can be treated and others that require lifestyle changes that need to be addressed.

The problem with bruxism is that it wears enamel against enamel — the hardest substance in your body — causing teeth to wear down, fracture, and even break apart existing dental work.

But what causes it? Understanding the factors attributed to bruxism is the first step in treating the condition.

Chronic Stress

Many people notice that they grind or clench their teeth during periods of stress. It may be that you tighten your jaw on your commute home from work, or that you wake up in the morning feeling sore because your jaws have been grinding against each other all night long.

While stress isn’t always avoidable, some lifestyle changes can help. When possible, make changes to lower your stress level. Cutting back on caffeine, stimulants, and getting exercise can help your body to self-regulate.

Sleep Apnea

 Certain types of sleeping disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea can also cause bruxism. The clenching and grinding occurs as your body starts to feel deprived of oxygen, causing he muscles to tighten up as you gasp for air. You may never realize that it’s happening until your teeth start to wear down or chip away. Your sleep partner may be the first person to pick up on the snoring, lapse in breathing, or noises from grinding your teeth.

Protecting Your Smile From Teeth Grinding

Before you start to wear your teeth away, here are a few things to talk to your dentist about:

Protective bite splints — A custom bite splint or night guard is an excellent way to prevent the jaws from fully engaging to the point that teeth wear against one another. Smaller bite splints can easily be worn while you drive or work at your desk, giving you just enough space so that the mouth can be closed yet still relaxed.

 Injectables — Cosmetic injectables such as Botox have long been used to treat the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. But they can also be used as natural muscle relaxants, reducing tension headaches, TMJ disorder, and associated muscle fatigue caused by teeth grinding.

 Oral sleep appliances — When sleep apnea is the cause of bruxism, an oral sleep appliance may be able to provide effective relief and a better night’s rest with the first use. Such appliances position the lower jaw in such a way that the airway is naturally opened, and the teeth do not engage one another.

“Lips together, teeth apart” — When teeth grinding is a natural habit, it helps to reprogram our brains and the way our body rests. In the ideal situation, our mouth will be resting with the lips closed together, but the teeth about a pencil’s width apart.

Talk to a Kois Center dentist to learn more about managing bruxism and restoring teeth that have broken or worn down due to a chronic teeth grinding habit.