What Causes Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)?

Girl having severe muscle, jaw pain due to teeth grinding
Pain from Teeth Grinding / Bruxism

Bruxism is the medical term used to describe repetitive clenching of teeth, that starts to negatively impact our teeth, gums, oral-perioral muscles and Temporo-Mandibular Joint (TMJ). It’s commonly known as Teeth Grinding.

Article Contents

What are the Types of Bruxism ?

Based on when we clench our teeth, bruxism is categorised into two types.

  • If we clench our teeth while sleeping, we have “Sleep Bruxism” or “Nocturnal Bruxism”
  • If we clench them while being awake it’s “Awake Bruxism” or “Daytime Bruxism”.

Each type is caused by numerous distinct factors. Factors causing teeth grinding while sleeping and in awake condition vary.

What are the Causes of Bruxism (teeth grinding) ?

A number of risk factors and causative factors have been identified till date as follows :

1. Nervous system Disorders

  • Teeth grinding develops as a condition in patients suffering from Parkinson’s and Cerebral palsy and other similar movement disorders.

2. Mental Health Issues

Illustration of brain to show relation of mental health issues like stress, anxiety, depression with teeth grinding.
Mental Health and Bruxism
  • Stress, Anxiety, Depression and Schizophrenia usually cause Awake Bruxism.
  • In rare cases, personality disorders and eating disorders can also cause clenching of teeth.

3. Antidepressant Medicines/Drugs

  • Many a times, instead of depression causing clenching of teeth, Antidepressant drugs used to treat depression cause bruxism.
  • Antidepressant drugs belonging to the class of SSRIs and SNRIs may interfere with dopamine’s functioning.
    Dopamine’s proper functioning is necessary to stop spontaneous muscle activity. As this drugs hamper proper functioning of dopamine, muscle contraction increases leading to teeth grinding.

Are you taking SSRIs? If yes, then read more on the relation of SSRIs and Bruxism.

4. Genetic conditions

Illustration showing the linkage between genetically abnormalities and bruxism
Genetics and Bruxism
  • Also, genetically inherited disorders like Prader Willi Syndrome can cause sleep bruxism.

5. Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD)

  • Traumatic experiences trigger the Central Nervous System causing anxiety which ultimately causes teeth grinding . This can be Sleep Bruxism, Awake Bruxism or both.

6. Sleep Disorders

Illustration showing sleep disturbances and inadequate sleep cause teeth grinding
Sleep disorders and Bruxism
  • Frequent episodes of microarousals while sleeping, lead to increased muscle tone and ultimately Sleep Bruxism.
  • Obstructive sleep Apnoea and Snoring lead to greater number of such microarousal episodes worsening bruxism habit.

7. Gastro Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD)

  • GORD usually causes Sleep Bruxism. In GORD the acid levels in stomach increase, causing sleep disturbances (microarousals). This disturbances cause involuntary muscle contractions or jaw clenching.

8. Lifestyle Factors

Illustration of drug and alcohol abuse causing teeth grinding and pain
Addiction and teeth grinding

Bruxism (teeth grinding) is a multifactorial condition which commonly manifests as an unconscious habit that wears down the teeth ultimately causing dental pain, jaw pain, malocclusion, gum problems, TMJ pain and even headaches.

Teeth clenching can present with multiple symptoms hence, it’s necessary to give a complete family history, personal history and undergo various diagnostic test before commencing treatment.

Why do only some people develop Bruxism ?

Illustration raising a question as to why do only some people have bruxism ?
Why are only few people teeth grinders?

As per epidemiological studies, about 5% to 30% people suffer from bruxism. A major number of those affected usually have a family history or genetic predisposition for teeth grinding.
Other than this reason, a few people develop clenching as a habit.

What is the treatment for Teeth Grinding ?

Innumerable treatment modalities from dental interventions and appliances like mouth guard to Botox have been used successfully. Non invasive methods of Physiotherapy (exercise) of perioral and neck muscles has also proven effective.

However, Bruxism’s treatment is not restricted to treating the symptoms alone. It involves the treatment of the underlying condition also.

The online project cureteethgrinding.com is the online reference of treatments that can help with teeth grinding.

Closing Remarks

Bruxism related pain worsens with time. Time is the crucial element for full recovery and alleviation of pain. So, if you grind your teeth, see your healthcare provider sooner rather than later.


L. T. Thayer, M., Ali, R. The dental demolition derby: bruxism and its impact – part 1: background. Br Dent J 232, 515–521 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-022-4143-8

Published by StephyK

Dentist with years of experience in private dental hospitals.