Is Your Dog Grinding Teeth? Here's Why (And How To Help)

Here's what you need to know about bruxism in dogs 🦷

Have you ever noticed your pup grinding her teeth? If so, you might wonder if something’s wrong with her or if it’ll go away on its own.

The Dodo spoke to Dr. Corinne Wigfall, a veterinarian working with SpiritDog Training, and Sarah-Jane White, an animal behavior and enrichment expert at Ruffle Snuffle in Norfolk, United Kingdom, to find out more about why your dog might be grinding her teeth.

Bruxism in dogs

Like humans, dogs can also grind their teeth.

“The medical term for teeth grinding is bruxism, and it can be harmless or it can occur for a number of health reasons,” Dr. Wigfall told The Dodo. “Bruxism in dogs can be in response to health disorders that cause pain. The pain can be in the oral cavity or elsewhere in the body.”

Common causes of your dog grinding teeth

While there are various causes for your dog grinding her teeth, some of the most common ones include:

Painful health issues

There are a few health issues that can cause pain to your pup, making her grind her teeth as a way to self-soothe.

“Painful oral issues can be due to fractured teeth, exposed pulp, oral masses, periodontal disease, tooth root infections, malocclusions or oral ulcerations,” Dr. Wigfall said.

Additionally, dogs who suffer from painful gastrointestinal disorders also show signs of bruxism.

Anatomical deformities

Bruxism can also be caused by an abnormal bite or alignment issues, which is not harmful in itself but can still be harmful in the long run.

“If your dog starts grinding her teeth excessively, it might be a sign that she is uncomfortable or in pain,” White told The Dodo. “If you think your dog’s teeth grinding is caused by an abnormal bite, you might want to consider consulting with a veterinarian or dental specialist to see if there is anything that can be done to fix the problem.”

For example, getting your dog braces (yes, dog braces exist!) can help fix her bite in some cases.

Stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety are other common triggers for bruxism in dogs.

“If your dog lives in a chaotic environment or if she experiences a lot of anxiety-causing events, she might start grinding her teeth as a way to cope,” White said. “In some cases, this can become a habit and can be difficult to break.”

If you think your dog might be grinding her teeth because she’s anxious, try to create a more relaxed environment for her and see if that helps. “You might also want to consider working with a trainer or behaviorist, who can help you manage your dog’s anxiety in a more holistic way,” White said.

Why do dogs grind their teeth when sleeping?

Dogs who grind their teeth in their sleep may be doing it for the same reasons humans do: arousals during sleep.

“But it may also be due to habit, in response to underlying pain or malocclusion,” Dr. Wigfall said. If you suspect your dog is grinding her teeth in her sleep too much, consult your veterinarian to check it out.

Is teeth grinding harmful to dogs?

While teeth grinding itself might not be a serious health issue for your dog, bruxism can damage the integrity of your dog’s teeth. “Bruxism causes wearing of enamel, which can result in serious dental complications, such as fractures, tooth infections, painful teeth, exposed pulp, gingival recession and painful gums,” Dr. Wigfall said.

What to do if your dog is grinding her teeth

A veterinary checkup is important to try and find out the root cause of your dog’s bruxism.

“If your dog is grinding her teeth excessively, or if she seems to be in pain when she does it, take her to the vet for a checkup,” White said. “There might be an underlying medical issue that needs to be addressed.”

Your vet may perform a full clinical exam, blood tests and diagnostic imaging.

“A full oral exam or dental exam will be needed to rule out issues in the oral cavity, and dental X-rays are likely to be performed,” Dr. Wigfall said.

How to fix teeth grinding

Fixing bruxism depends on the underlying cause.

“Painful gastrointestinal disorders can cause bruxism, and the treatment for this is very different in comparison to dogs that grind their teeth due to anxiety or stress,” Dr. Wigfall said. “For this reason, it is very important to diagnose the underlying cause.”

If it’s caused by anxiety

Stress and anxiety can be treated with desensitization treatment, socialization and positive reinforcement. “Seeking a behaviorist can be very helpful,” Dr. Wigfall said. “Dog-appeasing pheromone can also be used, for example Adaptil diffusers and collars.”

Try this Adaptil Dog Pheromone Diffuser from Amazon for $24.99

If it’s caused by gastrointestinal issues

Depending on the nature of the gastrointestinal disorder, your dog may require medical or surgical management. “Pain relief, anti-nausea medications, antispasmodics and antacids can be used with gastrointestinal disorders depending on the clinical signs shown,” Dr. Wigfall said.

If it’s caused by dental disease

A full dental treatment may be needed if the bruxism originates from dental disease. “Any problem teeth may need extracting or cleaning,” Dr. Wigfall said.

While your dog grinding her teeth occasionally in her sleep might not be a major issue, it can turn into something more serious if she’s doing it for any of the above underlying reasons. To be safe, get her checked out by your veterinarian to rule out any health issues.

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