Grinding Your Teeth At Night? Here’s What You Should Know

by | Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Do you grind your teeth while you sleep? Most people actually do not know if they grind their teeth. Why? Bruxism, or the involuntary habit of grinding one’s teeth, most commonly occurs during the night while sleeping. However, there are common signs to watch out for and effects to be aware of.

How Do I Know If I Grind My Teeth?

While grinding your teeth may be a subconscious habit, there are signs that may suggest you grind your teeth. The following are common indications that you may grind your teeth at night:

  • Morning headaches (most commonly dull and lingering)
  • Sore jaw or jaw joint
  • Wear patterns on your teeth
  • Your jaw muscles feel “tight” (from being contracted)
  • A bed partner may be able to hear you grind your teeth

Why Do I Grind My Teeth?

People who grind their teeth may be experiencing stress, anxiety, fear or anger. Grinding may also occur due to bite abnormalities, or crooked or missing teeth. Additionally, teeth grinding may indicate and be the result of a sleep-disordered breathing condition, namely sleep apnea. During sleep apnea there is the reduced or complete stoppage of airflow into the lungs. In this case, clenching or grinding can be a way for the body to subconsciously “fight” to keep the jaw and soft tissues in the mouth, throat and neck from falling back and blocking the airway. In fact, sleep bruxism is considered a common symptom of sleep apnea.

Is Grinding Your Teeth Harmful?

Teeth grinding can be harmful to your teeth, jaw/jaw joint, and bite (occlusion). It may contribute to headaches, muscle strain, or even earaches. Over 200 pounds of force can be exerted when you clench your teeth! The constant friction and force over time can lead to fractured or loosened teeth, and may lead to the loss of tooth enamel, making the teeth more susceptible to decay and cavities. Furthermore, if your clenching and grinding is due to sleep apnea, sleep apnea can increase your risk for other health conditions as well.

What Should I Do If I Grind My Teeth?

If you grind or are concerned that you may grind your teeth, consult and share your concerns with your dentist. Your dentist will be able to speak to your specific situation and guide you appropriately. Additionally, if you have other symptoms associated with sleep apnea, speak with your physician about your symptoms and condition.

How Do I Stop Grinding My Teeth?

First, it is recommended that your teeth should not be touching except when you are chewing. Take a mental note at random times throughout the day and evening to see if you are clenching or grinding your teeth. Conscious awareness is a great first step.

In order to help protect your teeth during the night, a dentist may make you a mouth guard to wear at night.

If you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, your physician may prescribe an oral appliance which can open your airway as well as protect your teeth and help reduce or eliminate your grinding. If you currently have a CPAP but still clench or grind your teeth at night or wake up with morning headaches, combination therapy, CPAP therapy and oral appliance therapy together, may be beneficial for you.