Why is Grinding Your Teeth Bad?

Ever woken up with a sore jaw, a headache, or even an aching ear after sleep? These could be signs of your teeth grinding while you are asleep at night. Both children and adults can experience teeth grinding and those who do may or may not be aware of it. But, what exactly are teeth grinding, what must have caused it, how you can confirm you are experiencing it, is it bad for overall dental health, and how to reduce/stop it? These are some of the questions that may come to your mind and this blog answers them all! Keep reading till the end, and learn everything about why grinding your teeth bad and symptoms of grinding your teeth.

What is Teeth Grinding?

Teeth grinding, medically referred to as bruxism, is a dental condition wherein both the upper and lower dental arches of an individual grinds together. It can even lead to gnashing of one’s teeth, jaw clenching, or biting down on one’s tongue or inside of the cheeks. It can happen to anyone, although most patients are children who tend to grow out of it as they get old.

 Typically, teeth grinding can be experienced in two ways:

  • Awake bruxism- This happens when one is awake and may or may not be aware of his/her teeth grinding
  • Asleep bruxism– It is the more common type, where one gets engaged in teeth grinding while he/she sleeps. Mostly, people experiencing sleep bruxism are not aware of actually doing it and they are informed by their partner or family members when they make noises.

Bruxism can be experienced in different levels, ranging from occasional teeth grinding to severe teeth gnashing. A dental check-up is the only way to find out whether one is grinding or gnashing their teeth.

What Causes Teeth Grinding?

In the case of adults, dentists attribute their teeth grinding to:

  • Stress or anxiety- It is the most common causative factor for adult bruxism. Some people tend to grind their teeth while they are awake in a particularly stressful situation or when they are anxious. Others might face teeth grinding at night during sleep because of being stressed all day long.
  • Sleep apnea- Teeth grinding is likely to accompany other sleep disorders such as snoring and sleep apnea.
  • Trouble concentrating or tension- If one is finding himself/herself hard to concentrate at work or is working in a tense environment, such outdoor factors could result in stress and anxiety that further triggers bruxism.
  • Certain medications- Some anti-depressants may lead to bruxism.
  • Poor lifestyle choices- Those who consume excess caffeine or alcohol or is an active smokers or illicit drugs abusers have more chances to be at risk of developing bruxism. 

Other risk factors include genetics and the competitive personality of a person.

Children tend to experience teeth grinding typically when they are babies and their milk teeth are erupting for the first time or when their permanent teeth have come in. Mostly, teeth grinding in them happens during sleep. They may even unknowingly grind their teeth or clench their jaw during their waking hours.

What is the Reason for Teeth Grinding in Children? 

Teeth grinding in children could be caused by:

  • Pain- Teeth grinding is a common response of emerging teeth in children or an earache.
  • Misaligned teeth- If children get their milk or permanent teeth coming in misaligned, there are chances of them experiencing bruxism. 
  • Stress- Not only adults, but children too can also get stressed either because of stressful events taking place at home or school. A common response to their stress is sleep bruxism.
  • Some medications or medical conditions- Same as adults, certain anti-depressants consumption could lead to bruxism as a side effect. Also, health issues like hyperactivity may cause children to be more susceptible to teeth grinding.

Symptoms of Grinding of Teeth

There are some ways to figure out that one is grinding his/her teeth. These are:

  • Worn down teeth- The teeth start to appear blunt and flat on their crown (top surface), as opposed to healthy teeth having natural shapes and grooves.
  • Jaw pain- A painful or tight jaw experienced by an individual after sleep could be possibly due to night bruxism. The overnight movement of the muscles of the face and jaw which leads to a change in bite and later misaligned teeth could cause an aching jaw. If left untreated, the individual might experience the temporomandibular joint disorder, where opening and closing the jaw properly would be difficult and it would hurt to open the mouth, chew, or yawn. A consistent popping sound may also be heard.
  • Sensitive teeth- Bruxism causes worn teeth and exposed enamel, thereby leading to teeth sensitivity to hot/cold temperatures.
  • Broken or chipped teeth- Teeth grinding or gnashing and clenching of the jaw- all can put a lot of pressure on the teeth. When enduring such stress on the teeth, they can potentially get chipped, cracked, or broken. The teeth may look flatter or shorter at the tips with age. Such teeth must not be left untreated as they can deteriorate and eventually lead to other dental issues such as decay, loose teeth, or gum disease.
  • Grit in the mouth- As one wakes up after night bruxism, he/she might notice grit inside his/her mouth. Grit is small bits of broken tooth enamel that feel like sand.
  • Sores on inner cheeks or tongue- During teeth grinding, it’s possible to clamp down and bite on the tongue or inside of the cheeks. This could cause the development of consistent sores in the areas where one has unconsciously bit or clenched while asleep. 
  • Headaches- Teeth grinding could even put significant pressure on the facial muscles and joints that are connected to the forehead. As a result, one might experience headaches and facial aches. 
  • Disturbed sleep- When one wakes up after sleep bruxism, he/she feels tired possibly because of unconscious jaw movements waking one up repeatedly or aching jaw, ears, and head that could result in disturbed sleep.
  • Noticing noises of teeth grinding by a family member or partner- Teeth grinding can sometimes cause a loud enough noise that wakes other people, even if the one doing it is unaware of it. This is the easiest way by which others can help one spot his/her teeth grinding.


Is Grinding Your Teeth Bad for you?

It is important to take teeth grinding seriously, as it can be bad for oral as well as general health. The answer to is grinding your teeth bad for you, is discussed below:

  • Weakened tooth enamel that causes tooth decay: Teeth grinding causes wear and tear of the teeth which could welcome bacteria inside and thereby lead to their decay. Over time, the teeth may get loose and in the worst scenario fall out.
  • Jaw disorders: Painful jaw disorders such as Temporomandibular disorder (TMJ) can result from bruxism. Its symptoms include pain in facial muscles and joints, neck, and shoulders and trouble in chewing, talking, and swallowing.
  • Gum recession: Teeth grinding or gnashing could cause wearing down at the gum line and receding of gums. As the teeth flex, their enamel can be lost at the gum line, which could cause notches into the inner layers of the teeth. Teeth with abfractions (indentations) can become very weak and sensitive. Moreover, due to weak enamel, if the bacteria are not eliminated in decayed portions of the teeth, they can eventually spread to gums and cause gum disease and recession.
  • Loss of dental work: Any dental appliances such as fillings, bridges, crowns, and implants, placed inside the mouth may get worn down just as natural teeth are affected by teeth grinding, gnashing, and jaw clenching.

Ways to Reduce Bruxism Occurrences:

  • Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake and avoid any bad habits that increase the risk of teeth grinding
  • Do not chew on pencil or pen backside and even gums
  • Try massaging your jaw and face or do stretching exercises before bed
  • Sleep on back
  • Alleviate stress
  • Stay hydrated.

See a Dentist 

If experiencing symptoms of bruxism, it is important to take help from a dentist as he/she can provide a mouth guard to protect the teeth from the damage and from the symptoms of grinding teeth or bruxism. 


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