What Causes Teeth Grinding?
Teeth grinding or medically termed as bruxism is a condition where you unconsciously grind or clench your teeth. Teeth grinding typically occurs when one is asleep. While the exact cause of bruxism is not entirely known, it has been commonly accepted to be a result of stress. Medical experts however cannot seem to agree on just this one factor and rightfully so as teeth grinding is prevalent in people of all age groups and gender hence there has to be more than one reason as to why it occurs.
As more research is being done on bruxism, we are able to determine some other non-stress related causes.
While there may be other factors that have been discovered, stress and anxiety is still considered the number one cause of teeth grinding in adults. A lot of people start to notice the symptoms (aching jaw, morning headaches) when they are going through a particular period of stress.
Why stress? Well when we are stressed, our normal sleeping pattern is disrupted because our bodily muscles are not in a relaxed state. A stressed person usually experiences tightening of the shoulder, neck and jaw muscles. This unrelaxed state somehow triggers teeth grinding and the intensity of the grinding can usually be linked to the amount of stress one is going through.
That being said, sleep disorders are also considered a cause of bruxism.
Frustration / Suppressed Anger
This is actually one of the few instances where teeth grinding or rather teeth clenching occurs during the day. You’ve watched the movies where the frustrated actor gets really angry and clenches down on his teeth to suppress the feeling. That might not seem very harmful during the day but imagine doing that when you are asleep for an average of 3-4 hours every single night. Unconsciously, we can exert up to 600 pounds per square inch of pressure on our teeth. That is a lot pressure on our teeth, gums and jaw muscles!
Type A Personality
People with type A personality are easy to spot. They’re aggressive, highly competitive or constantly hyperactive. Very similar to how stressed or suppressed anger types of bruxism are caused, people with type A personality will constantly have extreme amounts of suppressed energy waiting to burst out. Naturally, they are never really in a fully relaxed state. Teeth grinding can both occur during the daytime as well as when asleep.
Moving away from the psychological causes of teeth grinding, we now examine the physical factors that can trigger this condition.
A malocclusion is a misalignment of the upper and lower arches of teeth. While some some experts have put forth their case that an irregularity in the alignment of teeth may trigger a teeth grinding response in order to compensate for the spaces in between, research carried out seems to indicate that there may not be a connection between bruxism and malocclusion. However the results are not fully conclusive yet. This is a plausible cause though give the high incidence of bruxism and malocclusion together.
Irregular Teeth Development
The occurrence of teeth grinding amongst children is usually attributed to irregular teeth development which is not to say that their teeth are not growing properly but rather each individual tooth grows at a different rate. Similar to how malocclusion may cause bruxism, during this development stage, grinding is triggered as a response to try and compensate for the spaces and irregularities in between teeth.
Children may outgrow this condition as their teeth improve in structure but may also have developed a habit which they will carry into adulthood which is similar to my own case of bruxism.
Complication From Another Medical Condition
Parkinson’s and Hungtington’s disease have both been confirmed to increase teeth grinding activity. As these conditions respectively affect the nervous system and causes neurological disorder, people who suffer from either one are likely to grind their teeth (albeit not as strongly as bruxism caused by the aforementioned factors above) around the clock whether they are awake or asleep.
A jaw, neck, or head injury may also cause bruxism as it directly aggravates the muscles in the jaw area which in turn trigger teeth grinding. Most people who fall into this category however may immediately experience temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) in tandem with bruxism. The usual procession is teeth grinding gets so intense that it leads to more serious damage that causes TMJ disorder. In this case of an injury, the damage has already been done.
Side Effects of Drugs/Medication
Antidepressant medications such as Prozac and Celexa have been reported to cause bruxism as a side effect. The same goes for drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine and methamphetamine.
While there have been no conclusive studies, these deadly 3 has been reported to cause and aggravate teeth grinding. Some former bruxism sufferers (minor cases) have been able to eradicate their condition simply by stopping their alcohol, caffeine or smoking addiction.
Now you know what Causes Teeth Grinding.
Next, read about the symptoms of bruxism
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