5 Root Causes of Teeth Grinding

May 7th 2016

Although you can temporarily treat bruxism with a mouthguard, understanding and addressing the root cause can cure it entirely in some people. Consider your emotional state, other medications and any underlying health conditions that may cause it, and talk to your doctor about getting treatment.


Many people grind their teeth as a side effect of their emotional state. The most common cause is stress or anxiety, which causes you to clench your jaw and can lead to grinding your teeth in your sleep. Depression is also linked with teeth grinding, as is anger. Some people also grind their teeth as an unconscious focusing strategy. These kinds of physical strategies are common, but are usually benign. For example, many children stick out their tongues when they are focusing on a task. Bruxism can have the same focusing effect, but with adverse consequences.

Dental Problems

Missing teeth may cause you to grind your teeth in an effort to get your bite to align. This effort is often unconscious, but some people with missing teeth may clench their jaws during the day in an effort to hide their condition. Ill-fitting dental repairs can cause a similar effect as you grind your teeth in an effort to get a comfortable alignment. Some abnormalities in the jaw, such as a severe underbite or overbite, can also cause teeth clenching and grinding. This may occur during sleep as you unconsciously try to get comfortable.


Although pain is a common side effect of grinding your teeth, it can also be a root cause. This is especially common in young children who are teething, but it can occur at any age. It is commonly linked with earaches because pain in the ear often feels like it is happening just behind the teeth or jaw. Acid reflux can also cause you to clench or grind your teeth. This type of bruxism is generally treated by relieving the underlying pain.

Other Disorders

If you have certain other medical conditions, you may find yourself grinding your teeth as a complication. Huntington's disease and Parkinson's disease are two common conditions, as they affect your muscle control. Epilepsy or other types of seizures can also cause teeth grinding during the seizure itself. Sleep apnea is also linked with bruxism, although the exact mechanism is unclear.


Teeth grinding is a known side effect of certain medications, particularly some psychiatric drugs, and a few antidepressants cause it in some people. It is also a known side effect of antipsychotic drugs that contain phenothiazine.


Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, can be a serious problem. Prolonged grinding can lead to jaw pain, broken teeth and other painful consequences. It is usually a symptom of other underlying causes, and understanding those can help you devise an effective treatment program.

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