Bruxism bites: I'm grinding my teeth in my sleep

Originally Published: August 8, 2003 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: January 16, 2009
Share this

Dear Alice,

My mom tells me that when I'm sleeping, I grind my teeth... is this serious? Is it caused by stress? How can I stop this from happening?

Dear Reader,

Almost everyone grinds or clenches his or her teeth at one time or another. But some people do this regularly (either when sleeping or when awake), which can cause a number of symptoms, including:

  • headaches
  • stiff or painful jaw joints
  • permanent tooth damage
  • teeth that are worn down or flattened on the tips
  • chipped teeth
  • increasingly sensitive teeth
  • worn tooth enamel

Health care professionals call this condition bruxism. Traditionally, stress and malocclusion — the abnormal contact or alignment of the upper set of teeth with the lower set of teeth — were thought to be the major causes of bruxism, an explanation that many health care providers and dentists still stand by. On the other hand, some new research indicates that bruxism may be due mainly to neurological factors that are not yet understood. Because of the uncertainty about the underlying cause of bruxism, treatments vary from orthodontic devices (such as a night guard or other protective dental appliance) and stress reduction to drug therapy and biofeedback.

Although it is often difficult to tell if you are grinding your teeth while you are sleeping, you might notice some jaw pain or soreness in the morning. Sometimes other people might hear your nightly noise and let you know, as in your case. If you suspect your nighttime gnashing is causing any of the described symptoms, after an examination, a health care provider or dentist can help you explore treatment options to control your teeth grinding and any related problems. If you are a Columbia student you can make an appointment with a health care provider through Primary Care Medical Services by calling x4-2284 or logging-in through Open Communicator. Meeting with a health care provider should help you relay your fears about teeth grinding and allow you and your mom to sleep peacefully!

Alice

January 16, 2009

21509
To the reader:

I grind my teeth at night too, and to correct this I wear a sports mouthguard in my sleep. You can get them in sporting goods stores or the sporting goods section of a department...

To the reader:

I grind my teeth at night too, and to correct this I wear a sports mouthguard in my sleep. You can get them in sporting goods stores or the sporting goods section of a department store. They are very cheap, about $2 or less. The package contains instructions on how to fit them to your teeth. I find when I don't wear it, and grind my teeth in my sleep, I wake up with my head and teeth hurting. This pain can last all day. Also, if you grind your teeth you can wear them down. To avoid this problem, I suggest getting a mouthguard, because that's probably what your dentist will reccommend to you anyways (they may try to sell you a more expensive version, but it's the same thing).