What Makes People Grind Teeth While Sleeping?


You might be wondering why you find yourself knowingly or unknowingly grinding and or clenching your teeth. If so, you are not the only one. There are many people who grind their teeth.

Medically, teeth grinding is referred to as bruxism. In many cases, the condition occurs subconsciously mostly at night and sometimes during the day. Bruxism is a para-functional that occurs among some people at some point in their lives. The condition can occur among people of all ages.

You may not take teeth grinding seriously. However, if left unchecked, it can lead to many unpleasant appointments with the dentist.

Teeth grinding and clenching has been ranked among the top causes of sleep disorder. If unchecked, the condition can lead to adverse effects such as mouth disorders, headaches among other discomforts. There are a number of treatment options and medications available for teeth grinding.

Grinding Teeth in Sleep

Teeth grinding causes range from mental, emotional and even physical causes. The condition may also be caused by psychiatric reasons. Surprised? Well, I was too.

Did you notice that some of the causes are things that we ignore day in, day out. While most doctors believe bruxism is majorly caused by mental and emotional factors, he dentists argue that bruxism is a result of improper teeth alignment.

Let us explore a bit in detail the causes of teeth grinding that are attributed to our daily physical anatomy and lifestyle.

1.      Genetics

Did your parents also grind their teeth? If they did, this is the most likely reason why you are a bruxer. According to Professor Esther Gazit of the School of Dentistry at Tel Aviv University, bruxism can be caused by genetics. People who grind their teeth are likely to have inherited the bruxism genes from their parents. Unfortunately there is nothing we can do about this cause.

2.     Improper dentition

In medical terms, improper dentition is known as malocclusion or simply teeth misalignment. Some people have teeth that are not properly aligned and this may make them to grind involuntarily. An irregular contact between the top and bottom regardless of whether the teeth are straight or not or an irregularly shaped tooth may also lead to grinding.

Other causes of bruxism related to teeth misalignment include slightly protruding filling or a wisdom tooth. These two conditions can be corrected by getting the teeth straightened by an orthodontist or realigned by a dentist.

An abnormal structure of the jaw has also been pointed out as a cause of teeth grinding.

3.     Improper Eating habits

Most people love eating or drinking sweet foods. Coffee (high level of caffeine in the body), chocolate, cola, drinking alcohol, energy drinks, and cigarettes; which are your favorite? If you take any of the aforementioned, you are likely to develop teeth grinding.

Allergies like rhinitis can also cause teeth grinding. Other dietary-related causes of teeth grinding include dehydration that causes dry mouth and constipation. Headaches may also make you uncomfortable at night, leading to teeth grinding.

4.     Medication

People undergoing depressing may get prescriptions of antidepressants, these can also cause bruxism as well as consumption of the drug Ecstasy. Don’t get me wrong, it is good to follow the doctor’s orders.

5.     Illness or disease infections

Diseases of the neural system and nervous system such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s respectively may also make the sufferer have bruxism. Simple infections such as fever and flu cause discomfort, leading to bruxism. I won’t deny, this has happened to me at some point.

6.     Growth of new teeth

Quite a number of us can remember the process of teething; the pain and discomfort that comes with it. Teething is the major cause of bruxism at night in children. Too bad we cannot stop the teeth from growing so we got to deal with it.

What about the emotional and mental causes? These two are closely related and therefore we shall look at them jointly.

Emotional and Mental Causes of Bruxism

Emotional and mental factors are arguably the major triggers of bruxism. Doctors believe that this is so especially where the disease is associated with extreme and severe health concerns such as migraines, cerebral malaria, and depression. Studies have confirmed that bruxism is related a person’s state of mind.

Below are some major emotional and mental causes of bruxism:

a)   Anger

Anger may be suppressed or expressed and either way, bruxism may occur. Someone who feels angry may clench jaws knowingly or unknowingly to show their anger in form of aggression towards others. Have you found yourself clenching your teeth when angry?

b)     Discomfort

Discomfort of any sort especially at night, like a full bladder, headache or noise may make you to grind the teeth. Unless the discomfort is gotten rid of, one may continue to brux.

c)      Anxiety, depression and stress

All of us in one way or another have been anxious, stressed or maybe depressed. These emotions may manifest in the mouth and face, and you may end up grinding the teeth during the day or night.

In humans, the jaw, teeth and facial muscles are collectively used as tool for emotional management. This may be the reason why some people eat a lot when they are stressed or bite their fingernails when nervous.

Other emotional and mental causes of bruxism include frustration, fatigue, tension, hyperactivity or aggressive personality.

From the above, you can now satisfy your curiosity. If you are unable to manage your bruxism, you should seek treatment. Some of the treatment options include using mouth guards or natural mouth muscle exercises.


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