Why Do We Grind Our Teeth?

By Elayza Gonzalez

Do you ever wake up with a tight and sore jaw or even a headache? These aches and pains could be a sign of bruxism, or more commonly known as teeth grinding. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teeth grinding is when you move your teeth back and forth in your sleep, which can eventually lead to tooth sensitivity or damaged and cracked teeth. If you are wondering why you are grinding your teeth in your sleep, here are some of the most common reasons.

Teeth problems

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), an abnormal bite or teeth that are missing and crooked can cause teeth grinding. Issues with the temporomandibular joint or the muscles around your jaw can cause misalignment, which can lead to teeth grinding, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Anxiety and stress

The National Sleep Foundation said excessive worrying stemming from problems at work, relationships or finances can cause you to clench your jaw at night. Essentially, the more stress you feel — and the more you ignore the stress — the more likely you are to grind your teeth in your sleep.

Sleep disorders and other medical conditions

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep apnea and other sleep disorders can lead to nighttime grinding. Also, some medications, such as antidepressants, or health disorders, like Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease can also be the culprit for teeth grinding. The ADA also reports that some studies suggest alcohol and tobacco use can also be associated with teeth grinding.

How to fix it

According to Colgate, the first step to fixing teeth grinding is identifying the cause. Once you determine the cause, you can develop a treatment plan that works best for you. Colgate recommends wearing an occlusal appliance (a custom-made, specifically fitted plastic mouthpiece) when you sleep to protect your teeth and prevent tooth wear. These appliances can include: splints, bite/night guards, bite plates or mandibular advancement devices, which are used specifically when sleep disorders are the cause of teeth grinding. Behavioral management, like relaxation techniques, meditation, psychoanalysis and hypnosis can also help if the cause of your teeth grinding is stress and anxiety.


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