Teeth grinding and jaw clenching (also called bruxism) is often related to stress or anxiety. It does not always cause symptoms, but some people get facial pain and headaches, and it can wear down your teeth over time.
Most people who grind their teeth and clench their jaw are not aware they’re doing it. It often happens during sleep, or while concentrating or under stress.
Symptoms of teeth grinding include:
- Facial pain
- Pain and stiffness in the jaw joint (temporomandibular joint) and surrounding muscles, which can lead to temporomandibular disorder (TMD)
- Disrupted sleep (for you or your partner)
- Worn-down teeth, which can lead to increased sensitivity and even tooth loss
- Broken teeth or fillings
Facial pain and headaches often disappear when you stop grinding your teeth.Tooth damage usually only happens in severe cases and may need treatment.
There are a number of treatments for teeth grinding. Using a mouth guard or mouth splint reduces the sensation of clenching or grinding your teeth. They also help reduce pain and prevent tooth wear, as well as protecting against further damage. Other treatments include muscle-relaxation exercises and if you have stress or anxiety, cognitive behavioral (CBT) may be recommended.
Frequently Asked Questions
The first thing to understand about a mouth guard is that they are there to protect your teeth and will not actually prevent the grinding or clenching itself. Bruxism is usually caused by an underlying condition. The most damaging consequence of night grinding is the deterioration of tooth enamel. Teeth are covered in a layer of dentine, which protects the nerve endings and blood vessels underneath; dentine is in turn covered by a harder substance called enamel.
When under chronic stress, the muscles in the jaw tenses and tightens during sleep. This clenches the teeth together, sometimes resulting in a grinding motion that grates the upper and lower rows against each other. Persistent, untreated bruxism can result in deterioration of the enamel all the way through the dentine, compromising the integrity of your teeth.
The cause of teeth grinding is not always clear, but it's usually linked to other factors, such as stress, anxiety or sleep problems. Teeth grinding is most often caused by stress or anxiety and many people are not aware they do it. It often happens during sleep. Teeth grinding can sometimes be a side effect of taking certain types of medicine. In particular, teeth grinding is sometimes linked to a type of antidepressant known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Examples of SSRIs include Paroxetine, Fluoxetine and Sertraline. If you snore or have a sleep disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), you're more likely to grind your teeth while you sleep. Other factors that can make you more likely to grind your teeth or make it worse include:
- Drinking alcohol
- Using recreational drugs, such as ecstasy and cocaine
- Having lots of caffeinated drinks, such as tea or coffee (6 or more cups a day)