Grinding teeth while sleeping: possible causes and solutions

Clenching your teeth at night is a common condition, but that doesn't mean it's unimportant. We tell you how to identify if it's happening to you and how to remedy it.

Grinding teeth while sleeping – or bruxism, as it is technically called – is a movement disorder that occurs during the night, in which the lower jaw is clenched with the upper jaw with force. It is a fairly common condition – one survey estimates that 8% of adults may suffer from it – but as it occurs while sleeping not everyone is aware of being affected. A common sign of bruxism is waking up with a sore jaw or headache, although dentists detect it better by seeing alterations and exaggerated wear on the teeth. If the condition is severe, it can permanently damage the teeth and jaw, even causing hearing loss. But knowing what causes it can help us avoid it.

Why do people grind their teeth?

Dental problems

When one of your teeth is crooked, missing or not properly aligned, your upper and lower jaws do not fit together when you close your mouth. This can cause spasms in the muscles around your jaw and clenching of your teeth. A visit to the dentist can confirm this possible cause.

Sleep disorders

Fatigue and snoring are often associated with bruxism, although the clearest evidence is the relationship between bruxism and sleep apnea – the condition where breathing is interrupted for a few seconds during sleep. Studies show that fighting sleep apnea decreases clenching.

Stress and anxiety

When something worries you, you're more likely to grit your teeth, even during the day. This intensifies at night, because even when you're asleep your mind still feeds that anxiety.

Other factors

Some antidepressants have as a side effect grinding teeth while sleeping. It has also been shown that high intake of caffeine, alcohol or cigarette smoking can cause this.

How to stop grinding teeth in sleep

It is not easy to stop bruxism completely, but you can mitigate its effects with some of these strategies:

  • Wear a night guard: it is an appliance that is placed on the upper teeth when you sleep. It does not prevent bruxism, but it does prevent wear on the teeth as it is made of a non-abrasive plastic material. Dentists make them custom fit so that they are hardly a nuisance.
  • Relax: if stress is the cause, try to minimize it before you go to sleep. You can do a meditation session, read a book of poetry or find a solution that best suits your personality.
  • Apply heat: heat is a great muscle relaxer, so you can take a warm bath before bed or place a warm cloth – wet or dry – over your jaw.
  • Exercise: some movement is good for fighting stress, although very intense exercise just before bed can be counterproductive.
  • Give yourself a massage: if you feel your jaw muscles tense, gently rub them.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol consumption: drinking either of these two drinks before bedtime is not recommended in any case, so avoiding them will improve your overall sleep quality.
  • Don’t chew anything besides food: chewing pencils, pens or chewing gum allows your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and makes you more likely to grind your teeth.

As you can see, although grinding teeth while sleeping is common, it is also easy to solve. In addition, the remedies contribute to the general improvement of sleep hygiene, so it is worth trying them. And to get a comfortable sleep when you're not in bed, discover our OSTRICHPILLOW product range. You will feel at home away from home.

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Photo by Gregory Pappas on Unsplash
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