Clenching Triggers

  • Intense concentration: The American Academy of Oral Medicine suggests that concentration itself is sufficient to trigger bruxism.
  • Stress, Anger or Anxiety: Emotional stress is believed to be a common trigger for grinding or clenching teeth. This may lead to bruxism during the day and/or at night.
  • Allergies or blocked nose: Not being able to breathe through your nose due to allergies or being in a stuffy or dry room may contribute to more mouth breathing, which triggers the autonomic nervous system when sleeping. When this is switched on, muscle activity is under less of your voluntary control, and bruxism may be more likely to occur.
  • Smoking: Bruxism is twice as common in smokers than non-smokers. [v]
  • Excessive Alcohol or Caffeine: These substances can reduce the quality of your sleep and trigger bruxism.
  • Illness: Physical illness and poor nutrition can be a contributor.
  • Dehydration: Insufficient fluids throughout the day may worsen bruxism.
  • Sleep Disorders: Sleep bruxism is considered a type of sleep disorder. It can also be associated with other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and snoring. When the body approaches deep sleep, muscles are required to fully relax. This can cause problems in some cases to maintain fully patent airways (i.e. an open path between the lungs and the outside air). For example, the tongue when fully relaxed expands significantly. Another potential airway impediment is the relaxed jaw.
    • According to Dr Mark Burhenne, researchers discovered those with a partial blockage in their airways would grind or clench to re-open the airway in their sleep. Once the patients were able to keep their airways open all night the grinding stopped.[xx]
    • Airway obstruction could be a root cause of sleep bruxism. A sleep study might be warranted for some patients. If you have sleep apnea, a night guard could be making both the sleep apnea and bruxism worse.
  • Teeth misalignment: a poor bite or malocclusion has historically been thought to play a role in bruxism but a number of studies have failed to demonstrate the link. That said, poorly designed filings that sit too high may also contribute to grinding.
  • Genetic factors: If family members clench or grind then you are more prone to develop the habit as well. [vii]
  • Medications:  Bruxism can be a side effect of some medications. The most common types of medications listing bruxism as a potential side effect are the second generation antidepressants (including SSRIs and SNRIs) and antipsychotics. [viii]
  • It’s a symptom of another condition: in some instances bruxism has been associated with other neurological disorders. Drug resistant Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, Dystonia, Alzheimers, Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury and Huntington’s disease have associations with bruxism. [viii]

These factors can also play a role in bruxism during the day. Daytime bruxism is often seen as a habit in response to stress and anxiety. [vi]