Just as humans do, some cats grind their teeth. It’s called Bruxism and it is a symptom of an underlying problem.
The causes of bruxism are many:
Abnormal tooth alignment
Problem with the jaw. Pain opening and closing the mouth at the hinge where the upper and lower jaw meet.
A fractured tooth or teeth from biting something hard or head trauma.
Periodontal disease (gingivitis), gums become inflamed
Mouth ulcers which are a sign of an underlying disease
Tooth resorption, a gradual destruction of the tooth usually beginning at the gumline.
Feline stomatitis, a chronic autoimmune disease, tissues of the mouth become inflamed.
Dehydration resulting in swallowing often causing acid reflux. Cats grind their teeth to rid the mouth of acid.
Other triggers of teeth grinding can be Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), gastrointestinal ulcers, pancreatitis, kidney failure, cancer, low levels of potassium, brain tumors, neuropathy, behavior problems.
If your cat will cooperate, and you can keep out of the way of sharp teeth and claws, you can check his/her mouth.
If teeth and gums are sensitive, dry food may be causing teeth grinding. Switching to canned food may solve the condition.
There could be something caught inbetween the teeth. Again, if you can manage it, check the cat’s mouth and try to remove the object or have the vet do it.
Dehydration can be another source of teeth grinding. Cats sometimes need to be encouraged to drink enough. Other symptoms of dehydration include lethargy, sunken eyes, repeated swallowing to rid the taste of stomach acid due to indigestion.
Most of these conditions are serious and very painful. If you suspect your cat is grinding his/her teeth, a trip to the vet is indicated as soon as possible.
Your vet will perform an oral examination and order tests if necessary to determine the cause of bruxism.