7 Signs That You Grind Your Teeth at Night, And What to Do About It
by Dr Richard Barry
While many people know they dream at night, they may not realize that they also grind their teeth as they sleep. Known technically as bruxism, this grinding of teeth, often accompanied by jaw clenching, can actually harm your oral health if left undetected and untreated.
Bruxism can develop for a number of reasons, including stress, aging, medical disorders, and dental issues such as an abnormal bite or crooked teeth. The good news is that it’s treatable, and your dentist can help you manage it while also addressing underlying dental issues.
7 Signs That You Grind Your Teeth at Night
Perhaps your partner notices your teeth grinding habit and tells you about it the next morning. If not, there are signs you can be on the lookout for, alerting you that this may indeed be occurring as you sleep.
If you’re wondering if you might be grinding your teeth at night, here are 7 signs that potentially point to yes.
1. Headaches Upon Awakening
Awakening with a dull, throbbing headache can be a telling sign that you are grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw at night.
These headaches often concentrate in the temple area and can feel like a dull earache as well, even though there is nothing wrong with your ear.
You may notice that the headache actually dissipates soon after waking, usually within a half-hour or so.
2. Facial or Neck Pain
If you wake up with odd pains in your face or neck with no apparent explainable cause, bruxism may be to blame. Such pains may be the result of a constant movement in muscles of the face or neck as you grind your teeth and clench your jaw.
3. Sudden Earaches
If you suddenly begin to develop earaches and feel them upon awakening, consider whether or not there is a cause, such as swimmer’s ear. If not, notice if any other symptoms on this list are occurring at the same time, alerting you that you might be grinding your teeth in your sleep.
Also, this ache in your ear may radiate into your mouth, making you wonder if you are also experiencing a toothache on that side of the face as well.
4. Soreness, Tightness, or a Clicking Sound in the TMJ and Jaw Muscles
Do you ever wake up experiencing a sore or stiff jaw? Does your jaw click at times when you yawn or open your mouth wide to eat? If so, bruxism may be to blame.
Your TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) and surrounding muscles work together to allow you to open and close your mouth and also to shift your jaw in a side-to-side motion. If you clench your jaw during the night, along with teeth grinding, this repetitive force can create irritation in the TMJ. As a result, you may experience pain, soreness, tightness, or clicking in this area.
5. On-going Sleep Disruptions
If sleep disruptions become more and more common, these can be a clue that you are experiencing bruxism at night. The noise you make while grinding your teeth may wake you several times. Pain in the jaw, ears, or neck can wake you as well.
Interrupted sleep can leave you feeling tired throughout the day and also cause you to become distracted and experience trouble concentrating.
While sleep disruptions can be a sign of other medical or stress-related issues, take a look at what other signs on this list fit with your situation to determine if bruxism is a potential cause.
6. Damage to Teeth
One of the most noticeable signs of bruxism is the different damages it can cause to your teeth. Stay on the lookout for the following dental-related signs of bruxism.
Chipped, cracked, or fractured teeth
Flattened teeth, indicating excessive wear and potential exposure of deeper tooth layers
Heightened tooth sensitivity (to hot or cold items)
Unexplainable tooth pain
If you notice any of these signs, make an appointment with your dentist right away. Your dentist will know what to look for and what to ask to determine if bruxism is occurring, then will help you find the right solution.
7. Soreness or Damage in Lip or Inner Cheek Tissues
The action of grinding your teeth as you sleep may extend to chewing the inner parts of your lips and cheeks. If you notice these areas are sore, tender, or sensitive, or contain new sores that fail to heal quickly, suspect bruxism. A jagged or chipped tooth may be scraping against these mouth tissues as you grind your teeth at night.
What To Do About Grinding Your Teeth at Night
Whether you are grinding your teeth due to stress and anxiety, existing dental issues, or another cause, there are things you can do to help.
Schedule a Dental Exam
Start by noting which signs above are most prevalent. Next, contact your dentist to schedule a consultation and exam to see if bruxism is indeed the cause and, if so, to go over your options for managing it.
During the dental exam, your dentist will know what to look for, including loose, cracked, or chipped teeth, or the excessive wearing down of tooth surface, exposing deeper layers.
In addition to attending to any dental issues found, your dentist may recommend you wear a night guard when you sleep. This device can help slow or lessen the grinding and protect both your upper and lower teeth. Other oral devices may also be recommended depending upon your particular needs.
Your dentist will also consider whether you suffer from sleep apnea or excessive snoring, which can also lead to you grinding your teeth at night. If found, a personalized treatment plan can be designed to help manage that sleep apnea or snoring and alleviate or manage the bruxism.
Make Lifestyle Changes
In addition to treating dental issues that arise as a result of grinding your teeth, you may also want to consider making some lifestyle changes.
If you suffer high levels of stress or anxiety, try incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily routine, such as yoga or meditation. You may also want to meet with your boss and see if your workload can be re-evaluated or consider other ways to manage your schedule.
As for your diet, try cutting back on food and beverages that contain caffeine, or avoid them altogether. These include coffee, tea, soft drinks, sports drinks, and chocolate. Also, limit or avoid alcohol consumption, which has a tendency to increase the intensity of teeth grinding and jaw clenching as you sleep.
If you notice any of the signs of bruxism and suspect you might be grinding your teeth at night, contact Lifetime Dental Health to schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Barry and his team. Dr. Barry will take the time to evaluate your oral health with a thorough dental exam and ask all the right questions. Call today.