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Genomics and Teeth Grinding: Root Causes of Bruxism

Key takeaways:
~ Teeth clenching or grinding, called bruxism, can cause damage to your teeth.
~ Bruxism has a genetic component to it, for many people.
~ Understanding where your susceptibility lies may help you target the right solution for your teeth.

Bruxism, genes, and serotonin:

Bruxism is a condition where you unconsciously clench or grind your teeth. This can occur when sleeping (sleep bruxism) or while you are awake.

Bruxism can cause wear on the enamel of the teeth and even cause teeth to crack. Additionally, people with bruxism may have jaw pain, headaches, migraines, or sleep disorders.[ref]

Physical causes of bruxism, like crooked or missing teeth, can be addressed by your dentist.

But why do some people have the innate urge to clench their teeth to the point of pain or shearing down the enamel?

Genomics studies point to the serotonin system as one strong cause. People with genetic variants in a serotonin receptor are at an increased risk for bruxism.[ref]

What does serotonin do?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in the brain as well as the gut. Serotonin is important for mood, memory, and cognition in the brain.

Anxiety has long been linked to teeth grinding, and research shows that people with anxiety are more likely to have bruxism.[ref]

Coming back to genetics…
Both serotonin receptors and dopamine receptor variants have been linked to an increased risk for bruxism. Variants in these genes also increase the risk of anxiety and neuroticism. Research shows that people with bruxism are much more likely to have relatives, indicating a genetic component to it.[ref]

Bruxism Genotype Report:

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Now that you know that the serotonergic system is involved in bruxism, how can you use this information? Here are some suggestions:

If you grind your teeth and have these variants, you may want to learn more about your serotonin genes.

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Abe, Yuka, et al. “Association of Genetic, Psychological and Behavioral Factors with Sleep Bruxism in a Japanese Population.” Journal of Sleep Research, vol. 21, no. 3, June 2012, pp. 289–96. PubMed,

Alban, Patrick and DC. “Serotonin Supplements to Boost Mood Naturally (Detailed Guide).” Be Brain Fit, Accessed 29 July 2022.

Alonso-Navarro, Hortensia, et al. “Bruxism Possibly Induced by Venlafaxine.” Clinical Neuropharmacology, vol. 32, no. 2, Apr. 2009, pp. 111–12. PubMed,

Alves, Anne C., et al. “Bruxism. Masticatory Implications and Anxiety.” Acta Odontologica Latinoamericana: AOL, vol. 26, no. 1, 2013, pp. 15–22.

Amorim, Cinthia S. M., et al. “Effect of Physical Therapy in Bruxism Treatment: A Systematic Review.” Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, vol. 41, no. 5, June 2018, pp. 389–404. PubMed,

Beers, E., and A. C. van Grootheest. “[Bruxism as a side effect of serotonin re-uptake inhibitors].” Nederlands Tijdschrift Voor Tandheelkunde, vol. 114, no. 9, Sept. 2007, pp. 388–90.

Garrett, Andrew R., and Jason S. Hawley. “SSRI-Associated Bruxism.” Neurology: Clinical Practice, vol. 8, no. 2, Apr. 2018, pp. 135–41. PubMed Central,

Rajan, Royce, and Ye-Ming Sun. “Reevaluating Antidepressant Selection in Patients With Bruxism and Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.” Journal of Psychiatric Practice, vol. 23, no. 3, May 2017, pp. 173–79. PubMed,

Wieckiewicz, Mieszko, et al. “Genetic Basis of Sleep Bruxism and Sleep Apnea—Response to a Medical Puzzle.” Scientific Reports, vol. 10, May 2020, p. 7497. PubMed Central,

Young, Simon N. “How to Increase Serotonin in the Human Brain without Drugs.” Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience : JPN, vol. 32, no. 6, Nov. 2007, pp. 394–99. PubMed Central,

About the Author:
Debbie Moon is the founder of Genetic Lifehacks. Fascinated by the connections between genes, diet, and health, her goal is to help you understand how to apply genetics to your diet and lifestyle decisions. Debbie has a BS in engineering from Colorado School of Mines and an MSc in biological sciences from Clemson University. Debbie combines an engineering mindset with a biological systems approach to help you understand how genetic differences impact your optimal health.