Teeth grinding, known medically as bruxism, is when you clench or grind your teeth together, which over time can lead to damaged teeth and other complications. Most often people with bruxism are unconsciously grinding their teeth during the day or grinding them in their sleep so they are unaware of the occurrence.
What Causes Teeth Grinding
Here are the three main factors that lead to teeth grinding:
Stress & Anxiety
According to Bruxism.org approximately 70% of teeth grinding is a result of psychological factors like stress and anxiety. Personality comes into play here as all people handle stress differently. Some people are more vulnerable to the physical and psychological impact of stress, which in turn leaves them more negatively affected by it.
The use of psychoactive substances is another main cause of bruxism. Psychoactive substances are chemicals that alter the consciousness, mood or thoughts of the consumer, including caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, sleeping pills and depression/anxiety medicine. All of these substances stimulate the mind in some way which often causes disruption of sleeping patterns and daytime sleepiness.
The most common kind of teeth grinding is sleep bruxism, when teeth are clenched or ground while sleeping at night; In relation to this, teeth grinding is almost always accompanied by a sleep disorder. There are many sleep disorders that have been paired with teeth grinding, but sleep apnea is the most common link. Sleep apnea creates a lack of oxygen to the brain, altering its consciousness much like a psychoactive substance does.
When to See a Dentist
Lifestyle changes, like lowering caffeine intake, quitting smoking and finding a way to cope with stress, can lead to the end of teeth grinding, but that is something that won’t happen overnight.
Teeth grinding can lead to many oral health problems, including cracked teeth, erosion of teeth, loss of teeth and TMD/TMJ; Because of the risks involved it is important to consult your dentist if you suspect you have bruxism. With a dental professional’s knowledge and experience they will be able to see evidence of teeth grinding that will not be noticeable by the untrained eye.
If your dentist sees signs of teeth grinding he can make you a custom mouth guard that will protect your teeth from further damage.