- Grinding teeth while sleeping is called bruxism and is often a sign of an underlying problem. Learn about the symptoms and causes of bruxism.
- Bruxism can cause damage to your teeth and jaw. Learn how to stop clenching and grinding teeth by making simple changes.
If you got up one morning with headaches, sore jaw muscles, and fractured teeth, you were most likely spending your night grinding teeth while sleeping. This could be a sign that your body is telling you there is some underlying medical condition which you should not ignore.
A good night sleep is very important for health and your success in life. While sleeping our body repairs itself and prepares you to face new challenges. Grinding teeth at night interrupt this because your body and mind are not resting.
The proper term for the grinding of teeth at night is bruxism. This also includes constantly clenching your jaw in your sleep. It can also happen during the day which is called awake bruxism. It is estimated that around 20 g of force is applied to the teeth during a grinding or clenching session which is far more than is normal and can cause damage.
While you can become aware that you are doing it during the day, how do you know if you are doing it at night?
Signs that You are Grinding Your Teeth at Night
- Difficulty opening your mouth first thing in the morning.
- Sore jaw and neck muscles upon waking up.
- Frequent headaches.
- Teeth are sensitive especially to cold or citrus foods.
- If you have a partner, they may have noticed your mouth moving or heard your teeth grinding during the night.
- Teeth look worn down.
- Receding gum line.
- Broken teeth or fillings.
- Perhaps you have woken up to find yourself grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw.
What Causes Bruxism
Stress and anxiety are a major cause and the most common, but there are other things that can cause the grinding of teeth in sleep as well:
- Issues with the positioning or alignment of your teeth usually resulting in an abnormal bite (occlusal disorders).
- Certain medications (antidepressants and antipsychotic medicines) and drugs.
- Damage to the jaw or teeth.
- Jaw disorders.
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Sleeping on your side or stomach.
If your bruxism is caused by medication, speak to your doctor about varying the dose or formulation.
Bruxism can be a sign of other underlying conditions such as:
- GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease). Here are some natural ways to ease acid reflux.
- Huntington’s disease
- Sleep apnea
For most of the medical underlying conditions, you will need to be tested and receive treatment from a physician.
Bruxism whether during the day or night can also be a sign that you have unresolved anger or frustration or are not managing your stress effectively.
A common question asked is how to stop clenching and grinding teeth? If most of the time you are not even aware that you are doing it, it may seem impossible. Here are effective and simple lifestyle changes to treat bruxism.
1. Good Sleep Hygiene
This will not only help you to stop grinding your teeth but help you to sleep better in general:
- Use your bed only for sleep and sex so that your brain only associates it with those activities.
- Keep televisions (TV) and laptops out of your bedroom.
- Avoid LED displays an hour or two before bed, this means your phone, TV, computer, tablet, etc.
- Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day.
- Keep your bedroom cool (between 60°F/ 15.5°C and 70°F/ 21°C)
- Avoid caffeine after 6 pm, alcohol 3 hours prior to bedtime, and any other drinks an hour before bed.
- Make sure that your bedroom is pitch dark, cover all lights from any electronics or use a sleeping mask.
- Keep your bedroom clean and clutter free.
You may be shocked by the alcohol tip because when you have alcohol in your system, you think that you fall asleep faster and wake up earlier. But the research shows alcohol just impairs your brain’s ability to sleep deeply so your sleep is fragmented. The result is that you will less energetic the next day.
For more tips on how to sleep better, click here.
2. Sleep on Your Back or Use a Contour Pillow
Sleeping on your back will prevent any external pressure from being placed on your jaw unlike sleeping on your side or stomach. If you are unable to stop sleeping on your side as many people are, for example, because of comfort or because sleeping on your back worsens sleep apnea, a contour pillow can help.
3. Relaxation Techniques
Being able to relax is very important for everyone. Those who are constantly under stress can struggle to relax which can lead to bruxism and other health conditions. Here are some ways that you can learn to relax:
- Meditation: Meditate daily to relax and become more mindful. Learn about the many benefits of meditation and how to meditate here.
- Do things that you enjoy: Having fun and laughing is a great way to bust stress.
- Breath deeply: Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds (your stomach should expand first and then your rib cage should expand outward) and exhale through your mouth for 6 seconds. Do this a few times.
- Get a massage: A massage can help to relieve the tension in your body, especially in your shoulders and neck which can affect your jaw.
- Get in touch with nature: Go for a walk in nature or have a picnic. Even sitting in your garden for a bit is helpful. This is called forest bathing and is deeply relaxing for many. If you can’t get out much, keep a plant on your desk or in your home.
- CBT: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is where you change the way you react and think by replacing bad behavior and thoughts with good ones. If you are constantly thinking negative thoughts, accept them only as a thought, not reality, then think a positive thought instead. Instead of doing unhealthy things to relieve stress, go for a walk instead.
- Yoga: Yoga is very relaxing for many and gentle yoga can even be done before bed.
- Gratitude: Take time to acknowledge everything that you are thankful for.
If you are struggling with anger, frustration, depression, or anxiety that is not relieved by any of these things, seeing a counselor or psychologist can really help.
4. Vitamin C
Vitamin C does more than just stave off colds and flu. Vitamin C is necessary for the body to be able to make dopamine which helps to regulate your mood. It also helps to make sure that your adrenal glands are healthy which can help to improve your stress response and your energy levels.
Foods high in vitamin C:
- Red peppers
- Green peppers
- Brussels sprouts
Make sure that you also eat foods rich in B vitamins such as:
- Grass-fed beef
- Sweet potatoes
Magnesium is used in over 300 processes in the body and has a big effect on our mental wellbeing.
Symptoms of a deficiency in magnesium include:
- Irritability and anxiety
- Blood pressure problems
- Muscle cramps and spasms
We need between 300-800 mg per day. Food sources of magnesium include:
Spinach: 157 mg per cup
Chard: 154 mg per cup
Pumpkin seeds: 92 mg per 1/8 of a cup
Yogurt or Kefir: 50 mg per cup
Almonds: 80 mg per 28 g
You can also take a magnesium supplement before bed. Any form of magnesium ending with “ate” is fine except for magnesium stearate, asperate and oxide.
6. Unwind Before Going to Bed
This is what I do. No led lights 1-2 hours before bed. To combat stress I also take magnesium with chamomile tea before going to bed. Then I practice gratitude for 1-2 minutes followed by deep breathing exercise. While doing deep breathing and concentrating just on my breath which is a form of meditation, then I fall asleep.
Find your own bedtime ritual that works for you. I have cut down my sleep time from 7.5 hours to 6.5 hours because I sleep a lot deeper. My app tells me that. I have a free app called sleep cycle which, gives me all these statistics.
In the interim, you may need to be fitted for a mouth guard to prevent further damage until you can get the bruxism under control.
- Symptoms of bruxism include sore jaw and neck muscles, worn down teeth, painful mouth upon waking, frequent headaches, and tooth sensitivity.
- Causes include stress, anxiety, depression, parkinson’s disease, antidpressants, drugs, and jaw disorders.
- Practice good sleep hygiene to sleep better and reduce stress by meditating and deep breathing.
- Eat foods rich in vitamin C, B-vitamins, and magnesium and/or take a magnesium supplement before bed.
- Use a contour pillow if you sleep on your side, otherwise, sleep on your back.
- Relax and unwind before bed.
If you have or had bruxism, please share your story with us.
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- Bruxism: Conceptual discussion and review
- Treatment approaches to bruxism.
- Current Treatments of Bruxism.