What Are the Risk Factors of Teeth Grinding?

Tmj Dentist Tucson, AZ

Bruxism is a medical condition where a patient experiences teeth grinding when sleeping or unintentionally when awake. Jaw clenching can be present in both children and adults, and severe cases can contribute to temporomandibular joints disorders, frequent headaches or tooth damage.  Although there is not one single cause of this disorder, there are several known risk factors associated with bruxism.

Risk factors

It is not unusual for a person to be unaware of chronic teeth clenching, especially if the condition affects the individual only at night. Understanding what factors increase a person’s risk of developing bruxism can help dentists diagnose this common issue:

  • Age: Teeth grinding is most common in children, but many people outgrow the condition as they enter adulthood. This issue is especially prevalent in children who exhibit signs of hyperactivity and may be a response to pain caused by teething or misalignment of the top and bottom teeth.
  • Personality type: People who are generally more excitable and ambitious tend to clench the jaw more often. High levels of stress or anxiety can trigger episodes of bruxism.
  • Genetics: Although the relationship between grinding the teeth and genetic factors has not yet been defined, the disorder often runs in families.
  • Drugs and medications: Regularly consuming caffeine or alcohol often increases teeth clenching, especially when used at night. Recreational drug use and cigarette smoking are also considered to contribute to the condition. Bruxism is a side effect of some types of psychiatric medications.
  • Sleep disorders: People who have sleep apnea or who frequently experience night terrors are more likely to experience sleep-related teeth grinding.
  • Medical disorders: There are several mental health disorders associated with bruxism, including depression, activity deficit/hyperactivity disorder and anxiety disorders. Dementia, Parkinson’s disease and gastroesophageal reflux disorder can also cause a person to clench the jaw.

Symptoms and treatment

Dentists often look for signs of bruxism during a regular dental appointment and may ask the patient about their medical history and stress levels. Regular teeth grinding can lead to chips, fractures and worn tooth enamel. The front teeth may have a flattened appearance. The dentist may also test for TMJ by feeling a patient’s jaw joint near the ear for any clicking during movement.

While not everyone will experience obvious symptoms of bruxism, many people seek treatment for the condition because of frequent pain or limited movement in the jaw. Regular tension headaches and earaches are also associated with teeth grinding.

Fortunately, there are several different types of treatments available that can help patients find relief. Depending on the cause of the disorder, a mouthguard can be worn at night to protect the teeth from jaw clenching while asleep. Practicing relaxation techniques right before bed has positive results for some people.


Bruxism is a common disorder that often causes people significant discomfort. While most cases are minor, severe grinding of the teeth can cause extensive damage to the mouth and jaw. If you are experiencing any symptoms of teeth grinding or know that the condition runs in your family, make sure to bring up any concerns with a dentist.

Request an appointment here: https://www.simplysmilesdentist.com or call Simply Smiles Dentistry at (520) 368-3351 for an appointment in our Tucson office.

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