Causes of Clenching & Grinding

For most people, persistent teeth grinding and clenching can be thought of as a habit, or a habitual response. (There are rare exceptions where it has been found that some people’s nighttime clenching and grinding stems from a more epileptic-type neuron firing pattern in the brain, but for the most part, clenching and grinding can be thought of as a habit.) That is both good news and bad news. The good news is that many people can kick the habit. The first piece of bad news is that unlike something purely physiological like a cut finger or a broken bone, the body has no natural “healing mechanism” for habits or habitual responses. In fact it’s quite the opposite, in that our brains are wired to pick up habits.

The second piece of bad news is that habits are not necessarily very easy to kick, even if the person with the habit really wants to kick the habit. Consider for a moment how difficult it is for most people to curb a habit of overeating, or drinking, or smoking, or nail biting, or even to change a conversational habits such as interrupting people.

The further bad news is that for a lot of people the majority of grinding and clenching occurs during sleep. It would certainly seem that changing a habit that you do in your sleep would be more challenging than changing a habit that you do while you are awake.

Fortunately, the further good news is that even for people who can’t manage to kick the habit there are a variety of options available to help moderate the habit and/or prevent the habit from causing certain kinds of damage.

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