Learn what causes teeth grinding (bruxism) and how to prevent damage to teeth and gums
Teeth grinding or clenching, officially called bruxism, is surprisingly common.
Statistics show that at least 30% of people grind or clench their teeth at night and during the day. Frequency is similar in adults and children but is more common in boys than girls.
The jaw is an extremely powerful joint – you can exert a force of up 42 kg per square centimeter when clenching your teeth.
You’ll generally know if you have been grinding your teeth at night. You may wake up in the morning with a sore jaw and/or your dentist may notice damage to your teeth.
Bruxism can potentially damage your dental health in several ways:
- Cracked teeth
- Loose teeth
- Worn down teeth
- Loss of tooth enamel
- Damage to gum structure leading to gum disease
- Clicking of the joint in your jaw
Common Causes of Bruxism
Stress, anxiety and depression are all associated with bruxism in both children and adults and is a very common driver.
Occlusion is the dentist’s term for the way your top and bottom teeth fit together. Malocclusion is where your top and bottom teeth don’t fit together properly and is common cause of bruxism.
You are more likely to clench or grind your teeth if you suffer any of the following diseases:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
- ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder)
- Chronic reflux
- Sleep apnoea (stopping breathing during sleep)
- Parasitic infections
Certain medications, such as anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and amphetamines can also be the cause.
4. Food Intolerance
There is some evidence to show that teeth grinding at night may be due to hidden allergies or food intolerances, for example lactose intolerance.
Scientists have also discovered that smokers are more likely to grind their teeth at night, probably because smoking can disrupt the balance of neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain.
6. Nutritional deficiencies
Bruxism is linked with nutritional deficiencies, especially lack of calcium and magnesium, which are key minerals for calming the nervous system.
Best ways to prevent damage
Consider adopting good daily stress management practices, such as meditation, exercise, yoga or seek counselling if you feel you need more support.
Check the fit of your teeth
Ask your dentist to check your teeth for malocclusion. If this is the cause of your bruxism and damage to teeth is apparent, the dentist may recommend treatment to have your teeth realigned. They may suggest braces or dental surgery to fix the problem.
You can be fitted for a custom mouth guard to protect your teeth while you sleep. However, it’s important to still investigate what might be causing teeth grinding in the first place.
Investigate food intolerance
If you suffer any symptoms after eating certain foods e.g headaches, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, it may indicate that you have a food intolerance and these foods might be causing you to grind your teeth at night.
If you’re not sure of any food sensitivities, it’s worth keeping a food diary for a few days. Record all the foods you eat and write down any symptoms you might be feeling soon afterwards.
See the doctor
It’s a good idea to consult with your doctor and check for any underlying diseases that may be causing bruxism. Your doctor can also organize tests to see whether or not you suffer from sleep apnoea.
Give up smoking
If you are a smoker and you think this is a factor underlying your teeth grinding, consider giving up. Hypnotherapy is often an effective tool which can help you kick the habit.
Take calming minerals
Try eating foods rich in calcium and magnesium, such as nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables and milk to help relax you, especially just before you go to bed. Or consider taking a good quality natural supplement.