Experiencing jaw pain or have a partner complaining about you grinding your teeth at night? Learn more about bruxism and how it’s treated.

How Bruxism (Teeth Grinding) Affects Your Dental Health

Have you ever woken up in the morning with a sore jaw and just thought you must’ve slept wrong? While that could be the case, a sore jaw may also be the result of something more serious: teeth grinding. Teeth grinding, known as bruxism in the medical world, is a major dental concern, but it can sometimes go unnoticed for long periods of time. While a sore jaw may not sound all that serious, grinding your teeth can lead to all sorts of dental complications, such as chipped or broken teeth.

You might be thinking, “But, wouldn’t I know if I was grinding my teeth?” Unfortunately, many people don’t know that they are suffering from bruxism until they’re diagnosed by a dentist or heard by a spouse or roommate. Identifying the causes, symptoms and cures for teeth grinding will allow you to identify if you or someone you know is dealing with this condition. It’s important to identify teeth grinding as soon as possible so you can find the proper treatment and save your teeth from further damage.

What Is Bruxism?

Bruxism is a condition in which you grind your teeth. People with bruxism either subconsciously clench their teeth during the day or grind them while they sleep. Either way, it’s likely something you’re not even aware you’re doing, which makes it hard to diagnose. Bruxism is considered a sleep-related movement disorder and those with bruxism are likely to have other sleep disorders, such as snoring or sleep apnea.

Bruxism is most common in children, adolescents, and young adults. However, the exact number is hard to identify because so many people don’t realize they grind their teeth. Studies have shown that anywhere from 6% to 50% of children experience bruxism at some point. It becomes less common with age, with only 15% of adolescents grinding their teeth.

Quite a few problems can be caused by grinding teeth in your sleep, which is why it’s so important to find a treatment for it. Grinding your teeth can cause:

  • Damage to teeth
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Damage to inside of your cheeks
  • Tension headaches
  • “Clicking” sound when you open or close your jaw

Above and beyond discomfort, these side effects can lead to more serious complications down the line.

Sleep Bruxism vs. Bruxism

It’s important to note the difference between sleep bruxism (nighttime) and bruxism (daytime). Sleep bruxism is teeth grinding that occurs only at night. Sleep bruxism is harder to identify since it happens when you’re sleeping. Often, the only way you can tell if you’re grinding your teeth at night is if someone tells you or you start to see the damage on your teeth. Bruxism is virtually the same thing, but you grind or clench your teeth during the day while you’re awake. This may occur either consciously or subconsciously.

Causes of Teeth Grinding

There are several factors that lead to teeth grinding. Stress is one of the biggest of those factors. When you’re stressed throughout the day, you may subconsciously act on that by grinding your teeth at night. In fact, Mayo Clinic lists several emotional states as leading causes for teeth grinding, including anxiety, suppressed anger, or an exaggerated sense of competition.

Other causes that the clinic list include:

  • Abnormal alignment of upper and lower teeth: If your upper and lower teeth do not align properly, it may encourage clenching or grinding.
  • Changes during sleep cycles: Teeth grinding is usually connected to changing sleep patterns or disruptions of sleep.
  • Sleep apnea: This can result in your airway being blocked while sleeping, which can trigger a response to move the jaw to open the airway. In some cases, teeth grinding may be a side effect.
  • Genetics: Bruxism tends to run in families. According to the Sleep Foundation, as many as half of the people with sleep bruxism have a close family member who also has it.
  • Caffeine intake: Drinking caffeine in excess can increase the chance of teeth grinding. This is because caffeine is a stimulant that promotes muscle activity.
  • Complications resulting from a disorder: This may include diseases such as Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.
  • Dental discomfort: Children can grind their teeth as a response to pain from an earache or teething, or from the growth and development of the jaws and teeth.

Symptoms of Teeth Grinding

Most people who grind their teeth do so at night while sleeping. As such, they may not realize they are grinding their teeth unless a spouse or roommate makes them aware of it.

If you have sleep bruxism, you’re not constantly grinding your teeth throughout the entire night. Instead, you’re grinding in episodes, which can range from just a few to 100 a night. The number of episodes can change each night. You may not even grind your teeth at all one night. It all depends on the circumstances. It’s normal to move our mouth while you sleep, but the difference is that people with bruxism move their mouth with more frequency and force.

If you think you may have bruxism, these are some of the most common symptoms you can check for at home:

  • Broken or chipped teeth
  • Wearing or flattening of teeth
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Jaw pain or tightness
  • Enlarged jaw muscles

Other symptoms can include earache, headache, facial pain, or chew marks on your tongue and cheeks.

Consequences of Grinding Your Teeth

Teeth grinding can have serious consequences if it’s not treated properly, which is why it’s crucial to take the proper steps to find a dentist who can help with your teeth grinding. These are some of the potential long-term damages of grinding your teeth:

  • Teeth erosion: When tooth erosion occurs, it can make your teeth more susceptible to cavities or tooth decay.
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder: TMJ can cause difficulty chewing, jaw pain, clicking noises, locking of the jaw, and more.
  • Strain on your relationship: The sound of teeth grinding can be irritating to a spouse, partner, or anyone you share a room with. On the more serious side of things, it may even impact their ability to sleep, affecting their overall health.

The severity of these consequences depends on how often and forcefully you grind your teeth.While not everyone will experience these long-term side effects, it’s still important to be aware of the risk the condition poses to your well-being.

Treatments for Bruxism

So now that we know what bruxism is and the potential consequences of the condition let’s discuss how to stop teeth grinding. Although there is no official cure to teeth grinding, there are a few dental treatments that may be able to help.

Here are a few tips for how to treat teeth grinding at night:

  • Mouthguard: Using a guard for grinding teeth is one treatment that may be helpful. A mouthguard acts as a splint that cushions your teeth and stops them from grinding against each other throughout the night. It can also help reduce pain and swelling. You can buy mouthguards over the counter or have one custom made at the dentist, depending on the severity of your bruxism.
  • Botox: Some studies have found that Botox has positive effects for treating bruxism. Botox can reduce the frequency of teeth grinding, as well as help with pain.
  • Reduce your stress: Many people grind their teeth as a result of stress. So to stop grinding your teeth, try to reduce your stress levels. Some stress-reducing techniques include meditation, yoga, exercise, and therapy.
  • Reductive coronoplasty: This is a dental procedure that can be done to reshape the biting area of your teeth if your grinding is caused by crowded teeth.
  • Tongue and jaw exercises: These muscle exercises can treat teeth grinding by relaxing the jaw and facial muscles. They help to keep your jaw in proper alignment and can be done basically anywhere.

According to WebMd, hydration is also an important aspect of reducing teeth grinding. Before you move forward with any teeth grinding treatment, be sure to talk to your dentist first.

Affording Your Bruxism Treatment

No one should have to deal with teeth grinding for the rest of their lives. Not only is it very painful, it can have serious long-term consequences. So it’s crucial to take the proper steps to treat bruxism as soon as possible. If you don’t have dental insurance or are worried that a visit will be too expensive, consider enrolling in a dental savings plan. A dental savings plan is not insurance, but essentially a membership that allows you to save on a variety of dental treatments, like wisdom teeth extractions, x-rays, cleanings, and more. Find a dentist that accepts a 1Dental savings plan so you afford the dental procedures you need.

Find Out If You’re Grinding Your Teeth & How to Stop It

Teeth grinding is not something to be taken lightly. If you’re finding yourself waking up with constant pain in your jaw, it’s probably not because you’re sleeping badly. It’s likely the cause of something more serious and it’s time to get that checked out. If you have any indication that you’ve been grinding your teeth, it’s imperative to visit your dentist as soon as possible. 1Dental offers various dental savings plans that can help you afford the necessary dental treatment you need. Take the proper measures to treat your bruxism today and find relief from your discomfort.


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Aaron Plaskonos has worked with 1Dental in sales and customer service since 2014 and has years of experience with the dental industry from many different perspectives. He's active in his church, a husband, and a father to five children and one grumpy basset hound.

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