Bruxism or teeth grinding occurs when you clench your back teeth together when you sleep. Bruxism occurs during the lighter stages of sleep (Stages 1 and 2), unlike most parasomnias. Here are a few tips on how to stop teeth grinding at night, so you can sleep without hurting your jaw. I’ve also included the causes and side effects of bruxism – plus three different types of mouth guards for teeth grinding – so you have lots to chew on!
The stressful force of clenching or grinding your teeth causes pressure on the muscles, tissues, and other structures around your jaw – which is why knowing how to stop teeth grinding when you sleep is so important. It’s not just about getting a better rest at night, it’s about preventing future problems – such as temporomandibular disorders (TMD) in your jaw.
Side Effects of Bruxism
Some people grind their teeth during the day – and I’m sure we’ve all clenched our teeth in traffic or other high-stress situations! These side effects of teeth grinding are when bruxism goes untreated.
Tooth and jaw damage
Bruxism can wear down tooth enamel and lead to fractured fillings, injured gums, jaw pain and soreness (temporomandibular joint dysfunction or TMJ). Clenching and gnashing your teeth when you sleep is very hard on them – it can lead to abrasive tooth wear, looseness and sensitivity of teeth, and growth and pain in the muscles responsible for chewing. Teeth grinding can also lead to headaches, earaches, and facial pain.
If you don’t stop teeth grinding when you sleep, you might experience excessive tooth wear and decay, periodontal tissue damage, jaw pain, and temporomandibular joint or TMJ pain, headaches, and sleep disturbances for both you and your bed partners.
Teething grounding can be loud enough to wake up your bed partner – bruxism is surprisingly loud and disturbing! My husband grinds his teeth when he sleeps. If he doesn’t wear his mouth guard, I can clearly hear his teeth grinding together. It’s disconcerting, because it’s quite loud and it sounds painful. He almost always uses his mouth guard to stop teeth grinding, and he’s become quite used to sleeping with it.
The Doctor’s NightGuard Advanced Comfort Dental Protector for Teeth Grinding is similar to the mouth guard my husband uses when he sleeps. Before he was fitted by a dentist for a more individualized dental guard, he used a store-bought one.
Some people find it uncomfortable and even annoying to wear mouth guards when they sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep when you wear a mouth guard for teeth grinding, read 10 Natural Sleep Remedies to Help You Fall Asleep Fast.
Causes of Teeth Grinding
Doctors aren’t aware of a specific cause of teeth grinding, but triggers include stress and anxiety, the shape of your jaw, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and medication. It is estimated that 8 percent of the general US population suffers from bruxism.
Stress can trigger bruxism
Head and Face Medicine researchers found that people who are stressed by daily problems or trouble at work seem to be more likely to grind their teeth at night. They studied the causes of “sleep bruxism” (gnashing teeth when sleeping), and found that it was especially common in those who try to cope with stress by escaping from difficult situations.
“Its causes are still relatively unknown, but stress has been implicated,” says Maria Giraki of the Heinrich-Heine-University in Düsseldorf, Germany. She worked with a team of researchers to study the condition in 69 people, of whom 48 were teeth grinders. “We aimed to investigate whether different stress-factors and different coping strategies were more or less associated with these bruxism symptoms.”
Teeth grinding was not associated with age, sex or education level, but was more common in people who claimed to experience daily stress and trouble at work. In this study, tooth grinding was measured by thin plates that were placed in participants mouths’ overnight. Stress and coping techniques were assessed by three questionnaires, and the result was that stress and teeth grinding may be connected.
The Stop Grinding Mouth Guard Sleep Aid Grind Guard by BioGrind(TM) prevents your teeth from grinding and clenching when you’re asleep. This mouth guard for teeth grinding helps you sleep throughout the night and wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. It has easy step-by-step molding instructions and a durable travel case, and is recommended by doctors and dentists.
Teeth grinding linked to obstructive sleep apnea
According to Dr Shyam Subramanian of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, there is a high prevalence of bruxism in patients with obstructive sleep apnea -particularly in Caucasians. Nearly 1 in 4 patients with obstructive sleep apnea suffers from teeth grinding when they sleep. Bruxism seems to be especially more prevalent in men and in Caucasians compared with other ethnic groups.
“The relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and sleep bruxism is usually related to an arousal response,” says Dr Subramanian. “The ending of an apneic event may be accompanied by a number of mouth phenomena, such as snoring, gasps, mumbles, and teeth grinding. She adds that men typically have more severe sleep apnea, and perhaps may have more arousal responses, which may explain the higher prevalence of teeth grinding in men. Men also tend to report more symptoms of sleep apnea than women, such as snoring, loud grunting, and witnessed apneas.
It’s important to remember that sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea can lead to many secondary health conditions – such as teeth grinding.
Anxiety as a cause of teeth grinding
“High levels of anxiety can lead to bruxism, and untreated sleep apnea is known to cause mood disturbances including depression and anxiety,” said Dr. Subramanian. “Daytime sleepiness from sleep apnea may cause a person to ingest caffeine, and this has also been associated with a high risk of bruxism.”
Other factors that might help explain the relationship between sleep apnea and teeth grinding include anxiety and caffeine use.
4 Ways to Stop Grinding Your Teeth When You Sleep
Figuring out how to stop bruxism at night depends on why you’re grinding your teeth. If you’re stressed or anxious, you may find it helpful to learn how to unwind before bed. If teeth grinding is caused by obstructive sleep apnea, however, you may need to look into a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.
Scientific studies are still needed to determine the best way to stop teeth grinding. Here are a few options to think about…
1. Let bruxism stop on its own
“Bruxism sometimes goes away without treatment, especially when it occurs in children,” writes Dr Lawrence Epstein in A Good Night’s Sleep. “When it persists and is severe enough to warrant treatment, a number of therapies can be effective.” He adds that it often some trial and error involved when you’re finding the right way to stop grinding your teeth at night.
2. Use a dental bite plate or night protector
My husband uses a mouth guard for teeth grinding, and it works. His dentist fitted him for it, so I guess it’s a dental bite plate – the difference is that a dental bite plate is specifically fitted for his mouth, while a mouth guard for teeth grinding isn’t as specialized.
A Grind No More Mouth Guard and Dental Night Protector might be a good place to start, if you haven’t tried a mouth guard for teeth grinding yet. This one can be worn on upper or lower teeth. It doesn’t require boiling, cutting or molding – it’s an instant fit every time. These ones are disposable mouth guards, which you wear up to three days and then throw away. Its bite plate alignment grooves, absorbing bite plates, and stabilizing bite plate lips work together for maximum protection and to meet the needs of both teeth clenchers and teeth grinders during sleep.
3. Learn how to deal with stress in healthy ways
If you’re grinding your teeth because of stress and anxiety, you might look at how you cope with stress. The bruxism researchers found that people with the most problematic teeth grinding problems do not seem to be able to deal with stress well. The teeth grinders in this research study seemed to prefer negative coping strategies, such as escaping or avoiding their problems. This increases feelings of stress and anxiety, and can trigger teeth grinding. So, if you want to know how to stop teeth grinding in your sleep, you might try finding healthy ways to cope with your stress and anxiety.
4. Explore continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to stop teeth grinding
“Bruxism can be both a daytime syndrome as well as a night-time syndrome, but it is bruxism during sleep, including short naps, that causes the majority of health issues,” said Dr. Subramanian. “Studies do suggest that when sleep bruxism is related to obstructive sleep apnea, certain therapies, including continuous positive airway pressure, may eliminate bruxism during sleep.”
If you’re thinking about a continuous positive airway pressure machine to help you stop grinding your teeth, you need to talk to a doctor. It’s best to book an appointment or get a referral to a doctor who specializes in sleep disorders.
Other tips on how to stop teeth grinding include prescription muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and dopamine agents. In severe cases of bruxism, botox injections have also been used. If you’ve tried several treatments for teeth grinding, talk to your doctor about more aggressive therapies.
If you don’t fall asleep fast – if you suffer from insomnia – read 4 Best Herbal Supplements for Sleep. The sleep tips in that article are very relaxing, which might help you cope with stress.
What do you think of these tips on how to stop grinding your teeth when you sleep? Comments welcome below – especially if you found a way to stop bruxism!
Sources: Giraki, M., Schneider, C., Schäfer, R., Singh, P., Franz, M., Raab, W. H., & Ommerborn, M. A. (2010). Correlation between stress, stress-coping and current sleep bruxism. Head Face Med; 2) Dr Lawrence Epstein in A Good Night’s Sleep; 3) Teeth grinding linked to sleep apnea: Bruxism prevalent in Caucasians with sleep disorders on EurekaAlerts.