While teeth grinding may be more commonly associated with humans, it also occurs in cats, and it’s not all that unusual. The medical term for teeth grinding is bruxism. In humans, it can be caused by stress, anxiety, a sleep disorder, or missing or misaligned teeth. In cats, the most common reason is pain – sometimes, severe pain. It is most often related to dental issues, but can also be a symptom of other serious health issues.
Causes of teeth grinding
Dental conditions such as gingivitis or periodontal disease, fractured teeth, resorptive lesions, or stomatitis can all cause teeth grinding. Other causes include abnormal tooth alignment, also known as malocclusion, something that is often seen in breeds with both flat and elongated faces, such as Persians or Siamese. Like humans, cats can also develop TMJ (Temporomandibular joint) syndrome, a pain in the jaw joint that can be caused by a variety of medical problems. Mouth ulcers or oral cancers can also cause oral pain and grinding.
It’s surprising to many cat parents that gastrointestinal conditions such as gastritis, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis or abdominal masses can also be a cause. Cats are essentially grinding their teeth to cope with the pain caused by these conditions.
Chronic renal failure
While other symptoms of renal failure, such as dehydration, excessive urination, nausea and weight loss are more common, teeth grinding can be one of the symptoms of chronic renal failure.
Some other, less common cause of teeth grinding include low potassium levels, brain tumors, neuropathy and behavioral disorders.
Treatment of teeth grinding
Since teeth grinding is often associated with severe pain, treatment will include pain management as well as identifying and treating the underlying issue.
If you notice your cat grinding his teeth, take him to your veterinarian as soon as possible.