Teeth grinding and clenching refers to the grating of the top teeth against the bottom teeth. Though a common habit, this behavior, known as bruxism, can be more than an annoyance if it becomes chronic. It generates pressure that can hurt your dental structure, dental work, jaw, and surrounding muscles.
Your dentist can help you stop this habit to preserve your oral health. But you can better recognize your risk for bruxism if you know some of the factors that may lead to this habit. Read on to learn three of the reasons you may grind or clench your teeth.
3 Causes of Bruxism
Heightened Stress Levels
A major reason people grind or clench their teeth is due to high levels of stress or anxiety. Stress will create tension throughout the body that can manifest as tightening in the jaw, resulting in bruxism. This may occur at any time of day, including during sleep, which you might not notice.
You can talk to your dentist about methods to lower stress and therefore stop bruxism. Certain facial stretches and exercises can also reduce tension in your jaw, decreasing the likelihood you will grind or clench your teeth. A dentist will evaluate your unique dental scenario to find the best treatment for bruxism for you.
You can have a higher chance of bruxism if you have alignment issues in your smile. Crooked or crowded teeth may mean that your bite does not close properly, creating awkward or uneven pressure on the teeth. As a result, you might clench or grind your teeth.
Severe malocclusions may need evaluation and treatment from an orthodontist. But smaller alignment concerns can be amended with Invisalign. These clear plastic custom-made aligners fit your unique smile, gradually shifting your teeth to a straighter position.
This way, your bite can close comfortably without applying abnormal pressures on certain areas of the mouth. When you can do this, you can stop grinding your teeth. Your dentist can let you know if bite problems cause your bruxism by checking your smile during a consultation appointment.
Sometimes underlying health issues may cause you to clench or grind your teeth. Discuss your medical history with your dentist to learn more. But if you have sleep apnea, recent research suggests you could have a higher risk of bruxism during sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea refers to a condition in which the soft tissue at the back of the throat collapses, blocking the airway briefly, as you sleep. When this occurs, the body experiences stress, even if you remain unconscious, which may lead to tension that causes bruxism.
In mild cases of sleep apnea, a dentist can treat the issue with a special night guard that keeps the jaw in a relaxed position that will stop the collapse of tissue. Without the stress from sleep apnea, you can lower your risk of teeth grinding. A mouth guard can also cushion your teeth from unconscious bruxism.