Most doctors agree that there are actually several different things that can potentially cause teeth grinding. The medical name for teeth grinding is bruxism, and some of the things that might cause it include stress, suppressed anger, bad tooth alignment, and hyperactivity. Some other possible causes include a nervous reaction to chronic pain, or a reaction to certain medications, including anti-depressants. Some personality types also seem to have a tendency towards teeth grinding, including people who commonly exhibit aggressive behavior.
Many people with teeth grinding problems never even realize it. It's fairly common for the condition to be asymptomatic, especially in cases where it is relatively mild. A lot of people do most of their teeth grinding at night, and they may experience symptoms during the day without knowing what is causing them. Someone who does it during the day is generally much more likely to realize she has a problem.
Teeth grinding can have a lot of diverse symptoms. One of the most common things a person may notice would be a pain in the jaw area or a severe earache. These symptoms occur because the individual is overworking his jaw muscles. A person may also end up with over-sized jaw muscles for the same reason. Eventually, people may notice that the surfaces of their teeth are rapidly wearing down, and some individuals have severe pain in their faces that won't go away.
One of the first things many dentists will try is giving a patient a mouth guard, which can protect the surface of the teeth. This is especially helpful for people who primarily grind their teeth while sleeping. Some people also try counseling to reduce stress, or they may even take muscle-relaxing medications. Cutting back on caffeine and other ingredients that cause hyperactivity can also potentially be helpful. Since teeth grinding is generally an unconscious action, indirect approaches to treatment are often more successful.
People with mild teeth grinding problems may never have any serious complications, but more severe cases can have some generally unpleasant consequences. For starters, it can permanently damage a person's teeth to the point where dentures may be required. This doesn’t happen very often, but it’s relatively common for people to require crowns or other dental work. Teeth grinding can also lead to insomnia, and it may be related to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), which is a fairly unpleasant chronic pain condition.