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What causes teeth grinding (bruxism)?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Among healthcare professionals, there is no consensus on the causes of teeth grinding. There are several suspected physical and psychological reasons. These include:

  • stress
  • aggressive or competitive personality traits
  • suppressed strong emotions, like anger or frustration>
  • improperly aligned upper and lower teeth
  • sleep cycle changes
  • side effects related to some psychiatric medications, including some antidepressants
  • complications to some diseases like Parkinson's or Huntington's disease

For children in particular, teeth grinding may be a response to pain from an earache or teething, or a response to growth or development of the jaw and teeth.

The causes of bruxism are not known but many believe that stress, sleep disorders and an abnormal bite all play a role.

If you suspect you are grinding your teeth, schedule an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist can help you manage bruxism and its related symptoms, as well as repair and help prevent further damage to your teeth.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The reasons why some people grind their teeth -- often at night -- are not completely understood. Watch the animation to learn more about causes of tooth grinding.
No one is sure why some people grind their teeth, a behavior also known as bruxism. However, most doctors believe that stress often triggers the problem, particularly if you don't know how to relieve it yourself (which could be a simple as talking about your feelings with a friend). Teeth grinding can be harmless, though it may also lead to serious tooth damage, jaw pain, and other problems. If you know that you grind your teeth, talk to your doctor about treatment options.
Studies have found that bruxism is found more frequently in individuals who suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). Grinding happens as the apneic event is ending. This is a rather new theory of why people grind their teeth.

It's important that you identify whether you grind your teeth, with the help of your dentist. That simple fact may lead to a diagnosis of OSA.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.