Does Grinding Teeth Cause Cavities? (8 Helpful Tips)

Last Updated on: 5th July 2024, 07:25 am

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Written by

Q.F. Nayibe Cubillos Morales


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Dr. Gustavo Assatourians D.D.S

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Does grinding teeth cause cavities? Clamping or grinding the teeth during times of distress, changes in temperament, panic, or anxiety, are situations that occur quite frequently during the course of life. Popularly known as teeth grinding, a behavior that raises a question: Is teeth grinding a cause of dental cavities? What are its effects on teeth?

From a dental perspective, this often unconscious behavior is called bruxism, a term that comes from the Greek word “bruxisxie,” which means teeth grinding. In some populations, bruxism has a prevalence of up to 90%. The highest incidence is recorded in people aged between 20 and 50 years. Worldwide, daytime bruxism is found between 22% and 31%. Much of the scientific evidence focuses on sleep bruxism.

Regularly, the force that the jaws of an adult apply to chew ranges from 15 to 35 kilograms/force. A person with bruxism reaches a mandibular force that is between 250 and 350 kilograms, ten times more. This increased force produces an overload on teeth and gums, with their respective consequences for overall health.


What is Bruxism and Does Grinding Teeth Cause Cavities?

does-grinding-teeth cause-cavities

Bruxism – also called the silent disease – is a disorder in which the jaws clench with a force greater than normal, leading to the grinding or friction of the upper teeth against the lower ones (attrition). Bruxism can occur when we are awake (during waking hours) or during sleep. 

Wake bruxism is associated with psychosocial factors and environmental stimuli. Nocturnal bruxism is the most frequent and is linked to a central neuromotor dysfunction. People with nocturnal bruxism are more likely to have sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.

Some specialists point out that this unconscious nocturnal behavior is often inherited in families, which is why it is possible that another family member presents the disorder or has experienced it previously.


What are the Causes of Bruxism?

Situations of stress and anxiety, defective alignment of teeth, sleep apnea, and some antidepressant medications are some of its causes. It may also be related to other health conditions such as dementia, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, gastroesophageal reflux, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. We have a comprehensive guide that talks about the relationship between teeth grinding and epilepsy, just click here to learn more.

Consumption of coffee, tobacco, alcohol, or recreational psychoactive substances (RPS) may increase the risk of bruxism since they alter the nervous system.

Another cause is having an aggressive, competitive, or hyperactive personality, which creates conditions of stress and anxiety.


Symptoms of Bruxism

Some of the signals that alert to this pathology are linked to dental conditions, and others with various health events:

1. Sleep disturbance, reflected in chronic fatigue

2. Flattened, fractured, split, or loose teeth

3. Headache that starts in the temples

4. Back pain

5. Pain or swelling of the jaw, neck, or face

6. Internal cheek injuries from biting on food

7. Jaw with rigid or tense muscles

8. Difficulty opening or closing the mouth


What are the Consequences of Bruxism?


Headache, ear pain, malocclusion, and discomfort in the jaw joint are some of its consequences. 

Bruxism affects the cranial muscles, which is why it is related to migraines and muscle pain.

Other consequences of clamping the jaws with too much force and attrition (teeth grinding) are:

 Chronic fatigue due to sleep disturbance

 Damage to the cervical area manifested as back pain, resulting from the tension generated by clenching the teeth.

 Wearing off dental enamel and dentin, which in turn produces increased dental sensitivity to heat or cold.

 Cracks, chips, and dental fractures

 Recession of the gums

On some occasions, damage to the development of teeth, bones, and muscles in the face can occur, causing headaches, gum pain, ear pain, neck pain, as well as discomfort when opening or closing the mouth.


Can Bruxism Cause Cavities?

Grinding your teeth affects the hard surface of your teeth. This wears down the dental enamel and dentin, causing gum recession, which promotes increased dental sensitivity and vulnerability to cavities at the necks of teeth.

Intense bruxism can also affect dental crowns and restorations.


How can you Prevent Bruxism?

Preventing bruxism has a direct impact on reducing tooth friction and therefore contributes to reducing dental enamel wear and the likelihood of cavities.

Some recommendations include:

1.  Adopting healthy eating habits

2.  Exercising to reduce stress

3. Avoid the consumption of energy drinks, alcohol, coffee, tea, tobacco, and other substances that affect the nervous system.

4.  Visiting a dentist if any symptoms of this condition are detected.


What is the Treatment for Bruxism?


The first step is to consult a dentist or healthcare professional to identify an accurate diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment.

Treatment aims to reduce pain, prevent permanent dental damage, and decrease tooth attrition (grinding or tooth friction). There are various therapeutic alternatives, depending on the diagnosis.

Treatment often involves combining dental treatments (splints, rehabilitation, orthodontics) with other interdisciplinary therapies such as sleep medicine experts, physiotherapists, and psychologists, among others.

During treatment, the following therapeutic options may be used, depending on the prescribed diagnosis:

Analgesic or anti-inflammatory medications to reduce discomfort caused by bruxism.
A bite splint is a device that helps reposition teeth and facilitates relaxation of the jaw muscles, while also protecting teeth from friction wear. Some splints fit on the upper teeth, while others fit on the lower teeth.

Other practices that help overcome bruxism include:

 Applying ice or moist heat to the jaw muscles

 Avoiding hard foods such as peanuts or nuts

 Avoiding gum chewing

 Exercising to reduce stress and anxiety levels

With the guidance of the professional guiding the treatment:

 Learning stretching exercises to restore the action of the muscles and joints on each side of the head.

 Massaging the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and face, locating small nodules that can cause pain in the head and face.

 If you notice behaviors associated with bruxism, it is suggested to rub your tongue behind your front teeth or place the tip of your tongue between your teeth.

 Drinking plenty of water daily.

Does grinding teeth cause cavitiesBeing aware of the situation is the first step in avoiding clenching your jaws and grinding your teeth, characteristic behaviors of bruxism, and thus facilitating the effectiveness of corrective therapies.

Bruxism is not a dangerous disorder, but it can cause permanent dental damage, discomfort when eating or speaking, and jaw traumas, among other effects.

Frequently Asked Questions

How harmful is teeth grinding?

Persistent, involuntary teeth grinding, known as bruxism, can cause various health issues. It can result in cracked or fractured teeth, necessitating crowns or dental implants. Additionally, grinding can erode tooth enamel, potentially leading to periodontal disease or tooth loss.

Symptoms of teeth grinding include a painful jaw, potentially leading to temporomandibular disorder (TMD), and worn-down or broken teeth. This damage can result in increased tooth sensitivity and may necessitate fillings or even result in tooth loss.

Permanent teeth cannot regrow once damaged by grinding. It’s crucial to be aware of persistent headaches and jaw aches, as these may signal an unconscious grinding habit. If not addressed, habitual grinding can significantly impact the health of your mouth and overall well-being.

Can teeth be repaired from damage caused by bruxism? Fortunately, in most cases, the answer is yes. While it’s best for patients to address clenching or grinding habits before seeking dental treatment, it is still possible to restore your smile if the bruxism is not too severe.



1. González Emilce, Midobuche Elias Omar, Castellanos José (2015) Bruxismo y desgaste dental – Revista ADM /

2. Liao Sharon (Diciembre 16 de 106). What Wears Down Your Teeth /

3. Mayo Clinic (Agosto 10 de 2017) Bruxism (teeth grinding) /

4. MedlinePlus (Enero 25 de 2022) Bruxism /

5. WebMD Editorial Contributors (Julio 29 de 2021) Dental Health and Teeth Grinding (Bruxism) /

6. Frugone RE, Rodríguez C (Junio de 2003) Bruxismo – Revista Avances en Odontoestomatología /

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