Everyday Habits That Can Trigger Teeth Grinding

Do you wake up with sore jaw muscles or headaches? You may be grinding your teeth without even realizing it. Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, can be triggered by everyday habits that you may not be aware of.


Understanding the subtle yet impactful habits that can trigger teeth grinding is essential for maintaining optimal oral health. From seemingly innocuous routines like gum chewing to stress-induced behaviors, these everyday practices can unknowingly contribute to bruxism.

By identifying and addressing these triggers, you can take steps to protect your teeth and prevent further damage.


In today’s blog post, we’ll go over some common habits that could be causing you to grind your teeth.


What Is Bruxism?

Bruxism is a condition characterized by a chronic and unconscious or involuntary grinding or clenching of teeth. It can lead to various symptoms, such as jaw pain, headaches, and worn-down teeth.


While some newer research and medical experts have argued it is actually a habit born out of stress and anxiety, along with some other medical conditions, the consensus is that bruxism itself can either be a condition or a symptom of other medical conditions (primary or secondary bruxism, respectively.) 


Bruxism can also be classified by when it appears during the day.


Awake bruxism refers to the daytime teeth-grinding that, while involuntary, can be easier to treat thanks to the patient becoming aware of it more frequently. 

Sleep bruxism, or nighttime bruxism, refers to the clenching and grinding of teeth at night. It is less common than the daytime version but also much more difficult to detect and diagnose due to its nature of happening while the patient sleeps. 


It is worth noting that while both versions have similar actions of teeth grinding and clenching, the causes for both are different and mostly unrelated. Sleep bruxism is considered a sleep-related disorder in many cases, while awake bruxism might be a stress or anxiety coping mechanism that the patient can be taught to avoid.


Both awake and sleep bruxism can be developed at any age, but children are more likely to suffer from them. Night time teeth grinding is present in up to 50% of children in some studies, while just 13% in adults in others. 


Nonetheless, this leaves millions of adults still suffering from the condition every year around the world.

Symptoms of Bruxism

Common signs of teeth grinding or bruxism typically manifest through various physical and behavioral symptoms.


Symptoms of bruxism include jaw pain, ear pain, muscle activity, headaches, tooth pain and tooth sensitivity, and worn-down tooth enamel. 


People with sleep bruxism may also experience disturbed sleep patterns and facial muscle fatigue, especially in the morning, due to the excessive clenching and grinding of teeth during sleep. These symptoms of sleep bruxism are especially dangerous, as they typically have to become severe enough for the patient to become aware they have a problem.


It is essential to recognize these symptoms early on and prevent long-term damage from the effects of bruxism.

Habits and Factors that Increase Risk of Bruxism

Can certain everyday habits contribute to the development of bruxism? While not everyone who bites their nails or chews gum will develop the condition, people who are prone to it due to other risk factors, like stress or poor sleep habits, will likely develop bruxism as well. For example, chewing gum itself is considered a habit that is sometimes used as a coping mechanism for anxiety, which is what awake bruxism can be as well.


Here are some habits and risk factors that can all contribute to the development of both awake and nocturnal bruxism. Being mindful of these habits and finding healthier ways to manage stress can help mitigate the potential negative effects on oral health caused by any of them.

Excessive Gum Chewing

The repetitive motion of chewing gum can put a strain on the jaw muscles, leading to increased tension that may make bruxism symptoms worse.


As mentioned before, stress is a common trigger for both gum chewing and bruxism, further linking the two habits.


Individuals who excessively chew gum may unknowingly be putting themselves at a higher risk for developing bruxism due to the constant strain placed on the jaw.

Biting Habits LIke Nail, Pencil, Toothpick Biting

Individuals who engage in habits like nail biting, pencil chewing, or toothpick biting may unknowingly be increasing their risk of developing chronic teeth grinding and clenching. The constant pressure exerted on the teeth and jaw from biting on hard objects like pencils or toothpicks can lead to muscle tension and strain, contributing to the development of bruxism.


Nail biting, in particular, can also put stress on the jaw joint, further exacerbating the likelihood of teeth grinding. These habits not only pose a risk to dental health but also to overall well-being, as untreated bruxism can result in tooth damage, headaches, and jaw pain.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are significant contributing factors to the development of bruxism. When individuals experience high levels of stress or anxiety, they may unconsciously clench their jaw or grind their teeth, especially during sleep. These repetitive actions can lead to dental issues, jaw pain, and headaches.


By addressing the root causes of stress and anxiety, individuals can protect their oral health and overall well-being.

Poor Sleep Habits or Sleep Disorders Like Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep, disrupts the sleep cycle, leading to increased muscle activity in the jaw and potentially triggering bruxism.


Poor sleep habits, such as irregular sleep schedules or inadequate rest, can also exacerbate teeth grinding. 

Certain Medications

Medications like antidepressants, antipsychotics, and certain mood stabilizers have been associated with triggering teeth grinding in some individuals. It is essential for individuals taking psychiatric medications to be aware of this potential side effect and to discuss any concerns with their healthcare provider.


Monitoring for symptoms of bruxism, such as jaw pain, headaches, and tooth sensitivity, after beginning psychiatric treatment is crucial for early detection and intervention to prevent further dental damage or discomfort.


If you need another reason for not smoking, here’s another one.


The harmful effects of smoking on oral health are well-documented, with another one of the consequences being an increased likelihood of experiencing teeth grinding and clenching.


Smoking not only impacts overall health but also directly affects the teeth and jaw muscles, potentially exacerbating bruxism symptoms. Additionally, smoking often goes hand in hand with other habits like alcohol consumption and drug use, which can even further compound the risk of developing bruxism.

Drinking Coffee

Given the impact of lifestyle habits on oral health, it shouldn’t be surprising to find drinking coffee is on this list. 


Caffeine is a stimulant that can lead to increased muscle activity, potentially affecting the jaw muscles and joints. Individuals who consume excessive amounts of caffeine may unknowingly exacerbate their risk of developing bruxism, a condition characterized by teeth grinding and clenching.


Moreover, caffeine consumption can interfere with sleep patterns, contributing to the onset of a sleep disorder that may further increase the likelihood of bruxism.


Individuals need to be mindful of their caffeine intake and consider its potential effects on their muscles, jaw joints, and overall body, especially if they are experiencing any symptoms of teeth grinding.

Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol consumption is a significant lifestyle factor that can contribute to the development of bruxism, a condition characterized by teeth grinding and clenching. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to an increase in muscle activity at night, particularly in the jaw and facial muscles, which can exacerbate bruxism. This heightened muscle activity can put additional pressure on the temporomandibular joints, leading to pain and discomfort.


Alcohol is also known to disrupt sleep patterns, which can further contribute to teeth grinding during the night. Additionally, alcohol consumption can dehydrate the body, potentially affecting the muscles and joints involved in chewing. Considering these factors, reducing alcohol consumption may help in managing or preventing bruxism disorder.

Genetic Factors

Genetic predispositions can influence the structure of the mouth and jaw, potentially leading to misalignment that contributes to bruxism.


Individuals with a family history of bruxism may be more susceptible to developing the condition themselves. Additionally, genetic factors can also play a role in conditions such as sleep apnea, which has been linked to teeth grinding.


While genetic factors can influence the likelihood of experiencing bruxism, lifestyle choices, and stress levels can exacerbate the condition.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Research indicates a possible connection between Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and bruxism, a condition characterized by teeth grinding. Traditionally, there has been a link between bruxism and various psychological disorders, with studies suggesting that children with ADHD are more likely to exhibit clenching and grinding behaviors compared to those without the disorder.


While the precise relationship between ADHD and bruxism remains unclear, it is theorized that the hyperactivity and impulsivity associated with ADHD could contribute to teeth grinding. Additionally, bruxism might serve as a coping mechanism for individuals with ADHD to manage stress and anxiety, albeit in an unhealthy manner.


It is essential to recognize that not all individuals with ADHD will develop bruxism, and not all individuals with bruxism will have ADHD.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Genetic predispositions may not be the only contributing factor from your biology to bruxism; another significant aspect to consider is the potential impact of nutritional deficiencies on the development and exacerbation of teeth-grinding and clenching habits.


Certain nutritional deficiencies, such as inadequate levels of magnesium, calcium, or vitamin D, can lead to muscle tension and spasms, which are common triggers for bruxism. Additionally, low levels of these essential nutrients may impair the body’s ability to repair and maintain healthy teeth and jaw muscles, further increasing the risk of developing bruxism.


Therefore, maintaining a balanced diet rich in these nutrients is crucial in supporting overall oral health and potentially reducing the likelihood of experiencing teeth-grinding and clenching habits.

Other Dental Issues

Other dental issues, such as missing or crooked teeth or a misaligned bite, can be significant risk factors that contribute to bruxism, which is the habitual grinding or clenching of teeth.


When teeth are missing or not properly aligned, it can disrupt the natural harmony of the bite, leading to increased stress on the jaw muscles and joints.


Crooked teeth may also result in an uneven distribution of force when biting down, causing some teeth to bear more pressure than others.


These abnormalities can trigger the subconscious response of grinding or clenching the teeth.


Addressing these dental issues through orthodontic treatments, dental implants, or other corrective measures can help alleviate the associated bruxism and promote overall dental health.

Long-Term Consequences of Bruxism

Bruxism, if left untreated, can lead to various long-term consequences affecting both dental health and overall well-being.


The continuous grinding and clenching of teeth can result in: 

  • Damaged or worn tooth enamel that leads to increased tooth sensitivity and a higher risk of cavities.
  • Worn down, cracked, fractured, or loose teeth, necessitating extensive dental work such as crowns or even tooth extraction in severe cases. In severe cases, it even leads to a loss of teeth.
  • The constant muscle tension from bruxism can lead to jaw pain, headaches, and facial muscle discomfort.
  • Chronic bruxism has also been associated with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, which can cause further pain and limited jaw movement.

These long-term consequences of bruxism not only impact oral health but can also affect one’s quality of life, causing discomfort and affecting daily activities. Replacing tooth loss is among the most expensive and difficult consequences to deal with, for example. Therefore, it is essential to address bruxism promptly to prevent these potential complications and maintain optimal dental and overall well-being.

Treatment of Bruxism

Besides avoiding many potentially damaging habits, there are several ways to mitigate the symptoms of bruxism or treat it completely.


Treatment of bruxism in these cases should focus on lifestyle changes, stress, and anxiety relief, and biofeedback therapy can be effective strategies.


These approaches aim to reduce the triggers that lead to teeth grinding and help individuals manage their condition more effectively.

Lifestyle Changes

Considering making healthier choices in your daily life is an integral aspect of the comprehensive treatment plan for managing bruxism effectively. Simple adjustments in daily routines can make a significant difference in reducing teeth-grinding episodes.


For instance, limiting caffeine intake, particularly in the evening, can aid in achieving a more restful sleep, which is crucial for bruxism management.


Furthermore, maintaining good sleep hygiene by establishing a consistent bedtime routine and creating a peaceful sleep environment can contribute to reducing teeth grinding during the night. These lifestyle changes, when combined with other treatment modalities, can lead to improved outcomes in managing bruxism and promoting overall oral health.

Stress and Anxiety Relief

Effective stress and anxiety relief techniques play a vital role in the treatment of bruxism, helping to alleviate jaw muscle tension and decrease teeth-grinding episodes. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, and mindfulness can help individuals manage stress levels, which in turn can reduce the likelihood of bruxism episodes.


Additionally, engaging in regular physical activity and maintaining a well-balanced diet can contribute to overall stress reduction. It’s important for individuals experiencing bruxism to prioritize self-care and seek professional help if needed to address underlying stress and anxiety issues.

Biofeedback Therapy

Biofeedback therapy is a recognized treatment method for addressing bruxism, offering individuals real-time information on their muscle activity to help them learn to control and reduce teeth grinding. This therapy employs biofeedback devices that are placed on or near the jaw muscles to detect when they tense and can cause clenching and grinding. The device then gives the patient feedback, either as a slight shock or sound, so that they become aware of when they are bruxing. 


This enables individuals to become more aware of their body’s responses so that they can learn to avoid the habit of clenching, either at night or during the day.

Night Guards and Mouth Guards

Using night guards or mouth guards is a typical treatment method suggested for controlling bruxism.


Night guards are oral devices that create a barrier between the upper and lower teeth to prevent the harmful consequences of teeth grinding while sleeping, while mouth guards serve the same purpose but are worn during the day.


Dental guards, in general, offer patients who grind their teeth at night or during waking hours a sense of reassurance and instant relief from discomfort, even though they do not tackle the underlying cause of bruxism.

Talk to Your Dentist If You Think Your Habits Are Becoming a Bigger Problem

Awareness of everyday habits that can trigger teeth grinding, such as excessive gum chewing or using teeth as tools, is essential in preventing and managing teeth grinding in the long run and even in solving other underlying issues like constant emotional stress in life or risky lifestyle habits that are putting your overall health in danger.


Understanding the risk factors, such as stress and poor sleep habits, can help individuals make conscious efforts to reduce these behaviors.


By addressing these factors and seeking appropriate treatment, individuals can improve their oral health and overall well-being.


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