Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is sometimes related to stress and anxiety. Grinding can cause irreversible damage to teeth. Learn more here.

The Causes of Teeth Grinding and How To Stop

Did you know that around 40 million Americans grind their teeth at night? Every time you grind your teeth, you are exerting up to 200 pounds of pressure per square inch.

Pressure is not good for your teeth, so it’s best to figure out the cause of teeth grinding to come up with a treatment option.

Keep reading to learn the different causes of teeth grinding and learn how to stop.


What Causes Teeth Grinding?

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, often occurs during sleep but can happen while someone is awake. Most of the time, a person is not consciously aware that they are grinding or clenching their teeth.

There is not always a single or identifiable cause for teeth grinding, as each individual is likely to have a different cause. There are different factors associated with bruxism, and they depend on the type of bruxism.

Primary Bruxism

Primary bruxism doesn’t result from another condition. These are the factors that can contribute to this type of teeth grinding:

  • Growing teeth
  • Misaligned bite
  • Stress
  • Caffeine, alcohol, and smoking

Teeth grinding is common in younger kids while their teeth are growing. In this case, the problem resolves on its own because teeth grow quickly during childhood.

In adults, the main cause of bruxism is stress, but it can also occur from a misaligned bite, caffeine, alcohol, and smoking.

Secondary Bruxism

Secondary bruxism, unlike primary, occurs as a result of a medical condition or health circumstance. You might be at greater risk of teeth grinding because of the following:

  • Mental health conditions
  • Neurological conditions
  • Medications
  • Sleep apnea

Anxiety and depression that are caused by stress can lead to secondary bruxism. Neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease also cause movement during sleep.

Certain medications are linked to secondary bruxism along with sleep apnea.

Signs of Sleep Bruxism

Now that you know the different causes of bruxism, you might have one of the conditions that lead to it. However, when you are sleeping, it’s hard to know if you are grinding your teeth.

When you awake, you might notice these symptoms if you were grinding your teeth in your sleep:

  • Jaw stiffness and pain
  • Facial pain
  • Popping, grinding, and clicking noises when moving the jaw
  • Dull headaches
  • Broken, loose, or sensitive teeth
  • Worn teeth
  • Loose or broken fillings

Some people with bruxism will experience ear pain because of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). TMJ is close to the ear and responsible for opening and shutting the jaw.

There are also long-term effects of teeth grinding that you can look out for, such as:

  • Loose teeth
  • Tooth sensitivity as the enamel wears away
  • Gum bleeding or inflammation
  • Damage to crowns or fillings
  • Tooth fractures
  • Short or flattened teeth
  • TMJ syndrome

If you notice symptoms getting worse over time, it’s best to visit a dental professional for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

How to Stop Grinding Your Teeth

Once you’ve been diagnosed with bruxism through a dental examination, a dentist can help you come up with a treatment program that works for your specific situation.

The different treatments that might help with teeth grinding are:

Mouthguard or Mouth Splint

Dental night guards are one of the most common treatment methods for bruxism. A dentist might recommend wearing a mouthguard or splint during sleep to prevent further oral damage.

The devices work by evening pressure across the jaw and act as a barrier between the top and bottom teeth.

A dentist can create a flexible plastic or rubber mouthguard tailored to your teeth. There are also over-the-counter options you can buy but they are likely to be less comfortable.

Mouth splints are made of stronger plastic and fit over the top or bottom teeth. A splint keeps the jaw in a more relaxed position and the splints sustain damage if you continue to grind your teeth.


If you are experiencing pain from bruxism, you can take ibuprofen or other pain relief medications to help.

A doctor might recommend a short-term medication that relaxes the muscles and stops the teeth grinding cycle. This allows the jaw muscles to rest and reduces symptoms.

If medication is the key factor causing bruxism, talk to your doctor about an alternative. Don’t stop or change your medication without consulting your doctor first.

Medication is not a long-term treatment option for preventing bruxism, but it can alleviate pain and uncomfortable symptoms.


If you have severe bruxism, Botox might help. Botox injections can paralyze the muscles responsible for bruxism and might stop teeth grinding.

Botox is an expensive option because you’ll need regular injections to maintain the effects.

Underlying Condition Treatment

If you have secondary bruxism, the cause is from an underlying condition. To stop teeth grinding, you can get treatment for the underlying condition.

Treatment for mental health conditions might involve medication and talk therapy.

If you have sleep apnea, speak with a doctor about diagnosis and treatment. Some sleep apnea patients utilize a continuous positive airway pressure machine to prevent disruptions from sleep.

Can You Prevent Bruxism?

Primary bruxism is preventable and you can reduce symptoms by following a few basic self-care tips. Try these strategies:

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco
  • Refrain from chewing gum
  • Apply heat to the jaw to relieve tension and pain
  • Reduce and manage stress

Seek support, make time to relax, and practice yoga or mindfulness if you want to prevent primary bruxism.

The Bottom Line

There are different causes of teeth grinding, and it can be difficult to pinpoint a single one. Primary bruxism doesn’t result from an underlying condition, but secondary bruxism does.

Without treatment, you could damage gums, jaw bones, and teeth. A dentist will diagnose this problem and help you come up with a treatment plan. Seek out professional help now if you are experiencing symptoms.

For more informative articles like this, check out the other posts on our website.

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