Updated May 12, 2022
It is normal to clench your teeth involuntarily when feeling angry or stressed. According to Mayo Clinic, bruxism is the condition in which you grind, gnash, or clench your teeth. Unconsciously clenching your teeth while you are awake is called awake bruxism while grinding teeth during sleep are known as sleep bruxism.
It may be hard to know at first if you are grinding your teeth in your sleep. One of the biggest dangers of sleep bruxism is that you can apply up to 250 pounds of force when you grind your teeth. This can damage your teeth if left untreated.
Sleep bruxism is worse for people who struggle with a sleep disorder such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and/or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Other factors such as drinking, smoking, caffeine usage, depression, and snoring have been known to contribute to sleep bruxism. It could also be a side effect of antidepressants.
The good news is sleep bruxism is most common in children. It occurs in approximately 33% of children and 8% of adults. For most people, this condition will simply pass as your child grows older. If episodes occur too frequently, it becomes a much greater concern.
As mentioned, the main symptoms of bruxism are teeth clenching and grinding during sleep. Many people are told by their sleeping partners that they grind their teeth when they sleep. Other signs of bruxism are jaw, neck, and tooth pain. Damage to teeth is also a good indicator.
People do not usually experience episodes of sleep bruxism every night, and they're only a few episodes on nights they occur. Sleep Bruxism mostly occurs early in the sleep cycle stages 1 and 2 of non-REM sleep.
If sleep bruxism goes untreated, it can cause extended tooth damage. You may eventually need expensive dental crowns, fillings, or implants. You could develop Temporomandibular joint and muscle (TMJ disorders) which are problems that affect jaw muscles and joints that connect your lower jaw.
Sleep bruxism is either diagnosed by a dentist or a sleep doctor. Your doctor can recommend stress reduction treatment such as relaxation techniques and sleep hygiene. Other options are certain pain and sleep medication, and wearing a mouthguard or nightguard when you sleep. Other techniques that can provide relief are using ice or heat on your jaw and avoiding irritation such as gum and hard foods.
Wearing a retainer at night will also protect your oral health. If you have jaw pain or a sore jaw, you can use over-the-counter muscle relaxants until you can get proper health care.
Sleep bruxism is normally rare with adults. If left untreated it can cause severe damage to your teeth and is usually the result of an underlying cause. Talk to your doctor or dentist to figure out what the best options are for treatment.
Steven is a content writer who recently broke into the mattress industry. In his free time, he enjoys watching football and listening to music.