Do You Grind Your Teeth at Night?

Published:May 10th, 2012

© Chris C.

Teeth grinding, or to call it by its proper name, bruxism, is a surprisingly common problem. However a lot of people are unaware they grind their teeth at night unless they begin to exhibit physical symptoms, or are told of the problem by a disgruntled bed partner kept awake by the noise. But what causes this problem, and how much damage can do to your teeth?

Causes of Teeth Grinding
Although some people do grind their teeth during the day, most people tend to clench and grind at night, and this is a problem as it’s far harder to control the habit.

It’s thought a major cause of bruxism is stress, so if you have recently begun grinding your teeth it’s worth stopping for a moment to consider how much stress you are currently under and whether you can take measures to alleviate it. Other factors that can influence teeth grinding include:

  • Your diet
  • Sleeping patterns
  • The alignment of your teeth
  • Your ability to relax and let go of the day’s stresses

Symptoms of Teeth Grinding
The trouble with teeth grinding and clenching your teeth tightly together is that it puts pressure on the muscles in the jaw as one of the tissues and surrounding structures. Of course grinding your teeth also wears them down, and can cause considerable damage. Symptoms that you may be teeth grinding include:

  • Suffering from headaches
  • Feeling sensitivity in your teeth and gums
  • Noticing your teeth look chipped or worn, or shorter than before
  • Having a painful jaw, or noticing that it makes a popping sound when you open and close your mouth
  • Feeling anxious or depressed, or overly stressed
  • Suffering from an eating disorder
  • Suffering from insomnia

If these symptoms sound familiar then you should really think about booking in appointment with your dentist for a proper assessment. Getting the problem diagnosed earlier on will help minimise the damage to your teeth and jaw, and could make treatment simpler.

In some cases if bruxism goes undiagnosed it can cause permanent damage to the joint in your jaw which is called the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and occasionally cases of bruxism are severe enough to need surgery. In any case you’ll want to get it diagnosed simply to avoid further damage to your teeth and gums.

Treatment for Teeth Grinding
One of the most common ways of treating teeth grinding is to have a mouth guard or splint fitted which is worn during the night. There are lots of different types of mouth guards or splints, and they help to take the pressure off the jaw. Teeth grinding is a learned behaviour and a habit, and wearing a splint or mouthguard at night is sometimes sufficient to break this habit. If your teeth are out of alignment then you might need orthodontic treatment to adjust them to alleviate this problem.

However there are other things which can be tried that often help to break this pattern of behaviour. Some people find relaxation techniques useful, and this can include taking exercise, or carrying out specific exercises designed to relax the face and jaw muscles throughout the day. Others find yoga or hypnosis to be effective. Biofeedback devices can be used to modify behaviour.

Other things that might be helpful is to apply ice packs or heat to aching jaw muscles, and to make sure you get plenty of sleep every day. It might be worth avoiding hard foods like nuts and boiled sweets which could crack any damaged teeth, and make sure you drink plenty of water. It’s not a dangerous condition, but it can cause a lot of damage.

About the author

Alison, is a UK born and educated dental professional with over 25 years experience.

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