Teeth chattering, a condition many of us faced at least once at any point in our life. If it is occasional, it is usually not a concern, but when it occurs more frequently, it becomes a concern.
We commonly face teeth chattering in the winter season. A chilly cold winter is the most common nonserious cause of teeth chattering. But do you know there are several underlying medical conditions that give us a warning sign through teeth chattering? Let’s have a look.
Teeth Chattering Causes
It is one of the most common causes of teeth chattering. Here teeth chattering is associated with shivering. When our body is exposed to cold weather, our body tries to warm the body up from inside. So shivering occurs. Shivering starts when our body temperature starts falling below the normal range of 36.5 to 37.5 degrees Celsius.
When our body temperature goes down than normal, our body starts shivering to increase the body temperature as a protective mechanism. During shivering, all our muscles throughout the body contract and relax involuntarily at a higher speed. The rapid muscle movement releases heat that warms up body tissues. So our internal body temperature increases and comes closer to normal.
This mechanism is vital to save our life. When our body temperature goes down than normal, it is known as hypothermia. It is a life threatening condition. So maintaining a normal body temperature is vital for living. So we can say this is a life savior mechanism.
Like other body muscles, face and jaw muscles (like TMJ muscles) also involuntarily go through contraction and relaxation. So our jaw twitches and spasms due to jaw muscles contraction and relaxation. It results in the knocking of upper and lower sets of teeth together. So it leads to teeth chattering.
It is also a common cause of teeth chattering. In today’s world, stress is a widespread issue. Be it physical stress or emotional stress. When we are under stress, our body gives us many signs. Teeth chattering is one of these signs.
In stress, anxiety, or panic, many of us start to grind our teeth. Many times this grinding of teeth is unintentional. This teeth grinding is known as bruxism and may result in teeth chattering.
Anxiety, stress, depression is common finding in people who have issues with teeth chattering. In fact, research shows, teeth chattering increases based on the severity of stress, anxiety, depression.
Why do teeth chattering occur in these conditions? Because when we are under stress or in anxiety or depression, there is involuntary jaw muscle contraction and relaxation. It causes teeth chattering.
Medication side effects
We take medicine for various medical conditions. Every drug has some side effects. Teeth chattering is also a side effect of few drugs. But if we consider the beneficial effects of these medicines, teeth chattering is not a major issue. Some of these medicines are
- Antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), sertraline, fluoxetine, paroxetine.
Withdrawal of drugs or alcohol
Teeth chattering is a possible symptom of drug or alcohol withdrawal. It is known as drug induced tremor. Here tremors are caused by not having the drugs. When we take medicine, our body gets used to it. So stoppage of the drug has effects on the body and may cause teeth chattering.
If we withdraw a drug suddenly, the chances of getting teeth chattering increase. Because in case of sudden stoppage, our body does not get enough time to cope with a drug free environment. That is why many times, it is recommended to withdraw a drug gradually, not suddenly.
Teeth chattering in drug or alcohol withdrawal reason
Now you may ask, what is the reason for teeth chattering in drug or alcohol withdrawal?
Drugs that cause teeth chattering upon withdrawal are the excitatory drug. These drugs increase the excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain like dopamine.
When we suddenly stop the drug, the reduction of excitatory neurotransmitter occurs, but our brain is not used to with this sudden reduction. The brain already becomes dependent on high levels of excitatory neurotransmitters like dopamine.
The same is true for alcohol also. As a result, our brain has to compensate for the lack of these excitatory chemicals. It leads to a condition known as dyskinesia. It is a condition where involuntary muscle movements occur that can cause spasm of facial muscle and results in teeth chattering.
Not only legal drugs, withdrawal of illegal drugs like MDMA (also called Molly), methamphetamines, cocaine, etc., can cause teeth chattering temporarily.
Withdrawal of coffee consumption
Many of us love to consume coffee. But very few know that coffee is a psychoactive substance. For this reason, many times, it is seen that reducing the coffee intake or eliminating caffeine consumption can cause teeth chattering. Why? Because caffeine impacts the brain’s production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. So be aware!
The neurological cause is a serious cause of teeth chattering. For this reason, teeth chattering needs evaluation to find out the cause. Teeth chattering can be an early sign of many neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease, oromandibular dystonia, etc.
Researchers are not clear that what is the cause behind teeth chattering in Parkinson’s disease. But they believe, in Parkinson’s disease, as dopamine and norepinephrine levels are low, it may be somehow associated with muscle spasm and results in teeth chattering.
Oromandibular dystonia is another condition where jaw muscle, face muscle, and mouth muscle contract and relax involuntarily. Factors that are thought to be related to oromandibular dystonia are
- Brain injury
- Wearing a non fitting denture
- Getting teeth pulled
Teeth Chattering Effects
So what happens when one have teeth chattering? Teeth chattering can be a sign of an underlying medical condition. But additionally prolonged teeth chattering may result many dental issues like
Sensitivity of teeth
Teeth chattering can cause wearing off teeth. Enamel, the protective outer layer of the tooth, wears off, exposing underlying dentin. So teeth become sensitive.
Difficulty in grinding food
As teeth wear off, a space is created between an upper and lower set of posterior teeth, even when we close our jaw. So upper and lower set of teeth, when tries to come together, a space exists between them. As a result, grinding food becomes difficult.
Permanent tooth loss and TMJ problem
Teeth chattering causes wear off teeth. So malalignment of teeth causes temporomandibular joint issues. Pain in TMJ, difficulty in TMJ function can occur.
Teeth Chattering Treatment
Treatment of teeth chattering depends on the cause. If we can remove the reason, automatically, teeth chattering will go away.
Teeth chattering bruxism
If the cause of teeth chattering is bruxism, then
- Clonazepam can be given for sleep bruxism
- Occlusal splint or mouthguard is a helpful device.
- Sometimes, botulinum toxin type A (Botox) injections into the jaw relieve bruxism and associated teeth chattering.
Teeth chattering anxiety
If the cause of teeth chattering is anxiety, stress, or depression, then
- Treating anxiety, stress, or depression is a must. Drug gabapentin is given for anxiety related or SSRI related bruxism.
- Counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and other therapy to control stress or depression are recommended.
Teeth chattering drug withdrawal
If the cause of teeth chattering is drug or alcohol withdrawal, then
- Withdrawal management medication like clonidine or methadone
- Pain reducing and trembling reducing medicines.
- Slow or gradual withdrawal of the drug. Slow tapering off the drug is very important.
Teeth chattering neuro problems
If the cause of teeth chattering is Oromandibular dystonia, then
- Botox injection into the jaw can be given.
- Drug carbamazepine can be given to get relief from teeth chattering.
If the cause of teeth chattering is Parkinson’s disease, then
- Drugs that can restore dopamine or dopamine regulators are given. There are many anti Parkinsonism drugs. Improvements of Parkinson’s disease improves teeth chattering issues.
- Early diagnosis and early treatment of Parkinson’s disease are utmost important to get the best results.
When to Seek Medical Help
Teeth chattering can be due to nonserious or serious causes. When you are not cold but still having teeth chattering, you need medical attention. Many underlying medical conditions show teeth chattering as an early sign. Finding the cause early is vital to get the best results.
Consult with a doctor if you experience additional issues like muscle spasms in other parts of your body.
See your dentist if you experience any dental issues like the sensitivity of teeth, painful gum, etc.
Teeth chattering is very normal when you feel cold. But teeth chattering not cold need your attention. There are various reasons for teeth chattering as we mentioned above. We hope with the above information you can find out the exact reason and can take necessary action. Please consider if the frequency and severity of teeth chattering is high it may lead to danger, so seeking medical help is best option. Stay healthy and happy.