Why Do I Grind My Teeth At Night?

If you are asking yourself the question ‘Why do I grind my teeth at night?’ you are far from alone. 

More often referred to as teeth grinding, bruxism is an unconscious, involuntary clenching of your jaw and grinding together of your teeth. Needless to say, grinding your teeth all night long can lead to a number of problems, including a permanently sore jaw, pressure headaches and tooth damage.

If you are among the countless people worldwide who are prone to teeth grinding in their sleep, we promise you are going to find this article helpful. In it, we seek to answer all of the most important questions you might have about nighttime teeth grinding, what causes it and how you can stop yourself from continuing the habit.

What causes nighttime teeth grinding

Sleep bruxism can be caused by a number of different and sometimes overlapping factors. Here are the most prominent ones that you should be aware of.

An underlying dental issue

Quite often, the underlying cause for tooth grinding is a dental issue. This could be anything from missing or crooked teeth to an abnormal bite.

The great news about this is that once the underlying dental condition has been addressed, the nighttime teeth grinding will usually resolve on its own without any further treatment required.

Stress or anxiety

In some cases, stress and anxiety can cause you to tense up and clench your jaw, usually without you being consciously aware of it. 

Suffering from long-term stress or anxiety can cause both sleeping and awake bruxism, and may need to be treated with medication, psychotherapy and/or physical relaxation techniques such as massages and meditation.

Sleep apnea

Sleep problems such as sleep apnea can contribute to your grinding your teeth in your sleep.

When most people think of sleep apnea, they usually think of the most characteristic symptoms of the disorder, which is breathing that stops and starts throughout the night accompanied by snoring. However, teeth grinding can sometimes be an accompanying symptom.


Nighttime teeth grinding is an odd side effect of certain antidepressants. If your doctor has started you on an antidepressant that puts you at risk of aggravated bruxism, discuss whether you can change to a different medication that does not come with that side effect.

Excessive chewing

If you are in the habit of chewing almost constantly, the constant chewing motion can cause tension in your jaw, which can manifest as sleep bruxism.

Chewing things like taffy, chewing gum or chewy foods including dark meats and thick breads can create muscle tension, which can lead to teeth grinding.

Risks Of Nighttime Teeth Grinding

What are the short, medium and long term risks of nighttime teeth grinding? What problems can sleep bruxism lead to if left untreated? 

Well, let us look at the most common risk factors.

Sore jaw, jaw pain and pressure headaches 

The most common symptoms of sleep bruxism both in the short, medium and long term is soreness and pain in the facial muscles, and particularly the jaw. The tension is also likely to spread upwards and can cause pretty remarkable pressure headaches. 

If you have only recently started grinding your teeth in your sleep, one of the first signs that you have developed sleep bruxism is that you wake up with a tense and sore jaw and potentially a blooming headache. 

Temporomandibular joint disorder

Nighttime teeth grinding is one of the significant risk factors that can put you on a path to developing temporomandibular joint disorder (or TJM for short). TJM is a condition affecting the jaw joints and surrounding ligaments. It can be very painful and sore, and one of the tell-tale signs that you have it is that your jaw is making a clicking sound whenever you are moving your mouth.

Fortunately, TJM is not something you can develop overnight. However, the fact that sleep bruxism can lead to TJM should be enough to make you want to call up your dentist right away if you suspect you may be grinding your teeth in your sleep.

In rare cases, TJM can get really bad, but if the underlying cause for it is sorted out, it usually resolves on its own. In the meantime, you may have to ease the pain with a combination of ice packs and over-the-counter painkillers.

Tooth sensitivity and tooth damage

Over time, continual nightly teeth grinding wears down the enamel on your teeth. This makes them both much more sensitive (In the short term) and more vulnerable to cavities (In the longer term). In cases where the teeth grinding is particularly forceful, you may even risk your teeth chipping or cracking under the pressure. 

Needless to say, this kind of damage to your teeth is, of course, something you want to avoid. 

How to know if you are grinding your teeth in your sleep

People who grind their teeth at night usually know. 

The mist common symptoms of nighttime teeth grinding are waking up with a headache and sore jaw on a regular or even daily basis. You may also notice that your lower teeth feel more sensitive than usual, and if your teeth grinding is severe you may even notice chips or cracks in some of your teeth.

It is extremely important to book an appointment to see your dentist if you suspect that you might be grinding your teeth in your sleep. Your dentist will be able to assess your teeth and see what the best treatment would be in your case. Depending on what the issue is, your dentist may suggest teeth straightening, a dental implant to replace a missing tooth, or some other dental treatment option.

How to stop grinding your teeth at night

Now that it is abundantly clear to you why grinding your teeth at night is something you should want to avoid you are probably wondering how you can stop yourself from grinding your teeth in your sleep.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to stop grinding your teeth at night. Here is a rundown of the different things you can try or that your dentist may suggest.

Orthodontic treatment

If your sleep bruxism is caused by a dental misalignment issue, for example an uneven bite – your dentist is likely to suggest teeth straightening as your best option. Depending on the severity of your teeth misalignment, you may be able to choose between traditional metal braces and clear aligners. 

Getting your teeth straightened with clear aligners is our recommendation, if you have the option. Not only is the treatment time much shorter with clear aligners, clear aligners such as Invisalign or Smile Direct Club aligners are nearly invisible and can be removed when you want to eat or brush your teeth.

Wear a nighttime mouthguard

Sometimes wearing a nighttime mouthguard is enough to stop you grinding your teeth in your sleep.

Wearing a mouthguard at night prevents you from clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth. As an added bonus, a mouthguard can also help alleviate sleep apnea by keeping your airways more open.

Get Botox injections

Yes, you read that right. Botox injections injected into the right areas of your jaw relaxes the jaw muscles, so that you are no longer as prone to clenching.

Start exercising 

This piece of advice is particularly useful if the underlying reason for you grinding your teeth has do to with pent-up anxiety or stress. 

There is nothing like exercising to relax your body and mind, and if your exercise at night just a a few hours before going to sleep, you might find that it has a positive and relaxing effect on you. Exercising every night may not be a tenable solution for you, but exercising regularly can be one of the measures that help you finally boot nighttime bruxism out of your life.

Focus on relaxation before bed

Speaking of practices that can help you relax before bed time. We recommend trying different relaxation techniques until you find one or a few that work for you. Our best suggestions include massaging your facial and jaw muscles, meditation and breathing exercises.

Eliminate chewy foods and stop chewing anything but food

As mentioned earlier in this article, consuming chewy foods can be an underlying or contributing factor in night bruxism. In other words, if you are used to chewing a lot of chewing gum or your diet consists primarily of chewy foods, consider how you can start making some beneficial changes. 


Nighttime teeth grinding is no joke. 

In the short term, the only symptoms you are a likely to notice are a bit of jaw tension and occasionally waking up with a pressure headache. It is when you first start noticing these symptoms that you should book an appointment with your dentist to discuss the best treatment options to stop you grinding your teeth in your sleep.

Shrugging sleep bruxism off as a minor issue is definitely a mistake. If left untreated, nighttime teeth grinding can wear down the enamel on your teeth in a surprisingly short amount of time, leaving your lower teeth worn and potentially chipped and damaged. In some cases, you may even find yourself dealing with loose teeth or broken teeth.

Addressing the underlying issues that are causing your sleep bruxism is always worth the investment of your time, energy and other resources. After all, getting a dental implant or purchasing a night guard is a much better choice than waiting for the damage caused by your nighttime teeth grinding to mount up. 

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