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Silent Saboteur: The Link Between Bruxism and Sleep Disorders

Updated: Mar 15

Do you ever wake up with a sore jaw or headache? Do you find yourself grinding or clenching your teeth during the day or night? If so, you may be experiencing bruxism, a condition characterized by the excessive grinding, clenching, or gnashing of teeth. The situation is more common than you may realize, and may cause a range of dental and health problems, including jaw pain, headaches, and worn-down teeth. Is Stress Making You Grind Your Teeth? Discover the Best Ways to Relieve Bruxism. By reading this blog, you will better understand bruxism and its potential causes and learn about effective treatment options to alleviate the symptoms and prevent long-term damage.

stressed woman grinding teeth with bruxism symptoms may require oral dental care; asian adult
courtesy of almagia_com

Prevalence of Bruxism

Bruxism is a common condition that affects both adults and children. According to a study by the American dental association, as many as 15% of adults experience bruxism, and up to 33% of children grind or clench their teeth. The condition is more common in women than men and is often associated with high stress and anxiety levels.

stages of sleep and teeth grinding
courtesy of io_dropinblog_com

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can be related to sleep cycles in some people. In fact, many people tend to grind their teeth during their sleep, which can be problematic as it can cause wear and tear on the teeth, jaw pain, headaches, and other issues. During sleep, there are different stages of sleep cycles, including light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. The body goes through several of these cycles throughout the night; each cycle lasts for around 90 minutes.

Research has shown that bruxism tends to occur most often during the deep sleep stage of the sleep cycle. The stage is when the body is more relaxed, and the muscles are less active. It is believed by some dental and medical practitioners that during this stage, the brain's control over muscle activity may be reduced, which can lead to teeth grinding.

Effects of teeth grinding

Effects of teeth grinding, clenching & TMJ disorders

One of the most common effects of bruxism is tooth damage. The constant pressure and grinding of teeth can wear down the enamel and lead to chipped or broken teeth. Over time, this can also cause teeth to become loose or fall out, which can be painful and expensive to repair. Additionally, bruxism can cause dental work, such as fillings or crowns, to become damaged or dislodged.

Bruxism can also lead to jaw pain and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. The excessive force used during teeth grinding can put strain on the jaw muscles, leading to discomfort or pain in the jaw, face, and neck. Over time, this can cause chronic headaches or migraines. TMJ disorders can also develop when the joint connecting the jawbone to the skull becomes damaged or inflamed, causing pain, stiffness, and difficulty opening and closing the mouth.

Sleep disruption is another common effect of bruxism. The noise of teeth grinding can disturb a person's sleep, as well as the sleep of their partner. Over time, chronic bruxism can lead to sleep apnea, a condition where a person repeatedly stops breathing during sleep, which itself can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The following list includes a few effects of bruxism with explanations.

Dental consequences

Effects of Teeth Grinding or Bruxism - comparison before and after
courtesy of toothsmartdental_com_au

1. Tooth wear: the constant grinding and clenching of teeth can cause excessive wear and tear on tooth enamel. Over time, this can lead to chipped or fractured teeth and the need for costly dental procedures such as crowns and veneers.

2. Tooth sensitivity: as enamel wears away, the underlying dentin is exposed, which can cause tooth sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks.

3. Jaw pain: bruxism can cause pain and discomfort in the jaw joint, temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and surrounding muscles. It can result in difficulty opening and closing the mouth and chronic headaches and earaches.

4. Gum recession: the excessive force of bruxism can cause the gums to recede, leaving the tooth roots exposed and vulnerable to decay.

5. Loose teeth: in severe cases, bruxism can cause teeth to become loose or even fall out due to excessive pressure.


General health consequences

1. Sleep disturbances: bruxism, mainly sleep bruxism, can interfere with quality sleep, leading to daytime fatigue and mood changes.

2. Tinnitus: the constant grinding and clenching of teeth can cause ringing or buzzing in the ears, known as tinnitus.

3. Headaches: bruxism can cause tension headaches due to excessive pressure on the jaw muscles.

4. Neck and shoulder pain: the tension and strain on the jaw muscles from bruxism can radiate to the neck and shoulder muscles, causing pain and discomfort.

5. Stress and anxiety: bruxism is often associated with high levels of stress and anxiety, which can exacerbate the condition and lead to a cycle of bruxism and stress.

Emotional and psychological distress

Individuals with bruxism may feel embarrassed or self-conscious about the condition, mainly if it causes visible damage to their teeth. They may also experience social isolation due to the pain and discomfort associated with the situation. The chronic pain and discomfort associated with bruxism can also lead to depression and anxiety, further exacerbating the condition.

Types of bruxism

Bruxism, a condition characterized by teeth grinding and clenching, can be induced as a secondary effect of certain pharmaceuticals, including antidepressants. Irrespective of the etiology, it is imperative to pursue medical intervention for Bruxism in case one suspects its presence. There are two main types of bruxism: sleep bruxism and awake bruxism.

Bruxism Teeth Grinding, Clenching, and Tapping or biting
courtesy of drsilmansmilespa_com

1. Sleep bruxism (SB): this is the most common type of bruxism, which occurs during sleep. People with sleep bruxism are often unaware that they grind or clench their teeth and may only become aware of the condition when a partner hears the noise or a dentist notices signs of tooth damage.

2. Awake bruxism (AB): this type occurs during waking hours and is often associated with stress or anxiety. People with awake bruxism may clench their teeth when concentrating, angry, or frustrated.

In addition to these two main types, there are also subtypes of bruxism that can occur, including:

1. Primary bruxism: this is not associated with any other medical condition or factor, such as medication use or sleep apnea.

2. Secondary bruxism: this is caused by another medical condition or factor, such as sleep apnea, medication use, or neurological disorders.

3. Idiopathic bruxism: bruxism has no known cause and is often referred to as "essential" bruxism.

Who is at risk with bruxism?

Potential damage from teeth grinding is cracked, chipped or flattened and word-down tooth or teeth
courtesy of saintlukeskc_org

According to research, several factors can increase a person's likelihood of developing bruxism:

1. Age: bruxism is more common in children, with prevalence rates of up to 38%, but it can affect people of all ages.

2. Gender: women are more likely to experience bruxism than men.

3. Stress and anxiety: bruxism is often associated with stress and anxiety, increasing muscle tension and teeth grinding. People who experience stress and anxiety are more likely to grind or clench their teeth, especially during sleep.

4. Medications: certain medications, such as antidepressants and antipsychotics, can cause bruxism as a side effect. Stimulants like caffeine and nicotine can also increase the risk of bruxism.

5. Lifestyle factors: lifestyle factors such as alcohol and drug use, smoking, poor diet and caffeine consumption have been linked to an increased risk of bruxism.

6. Sleep disorders: bruxism is more common in people with sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea. Sleep disorders such as snoring and insomnia can increase the risk of bruxism. People with sleep disorders are more likely to grind their teeth during sleep.

7. Malocclusion: a misaligned bite or teeth that do not fit together correctly can increase the risk of bruxism.

8. Genetics: there may be a genetic component to bruxism, with some people being more predisposed to the condition than others.

Chart displaying stats with demographics for children, adolescents, middle-aged adults and older adults who grind their teeth exert force unto 250 pounds
courtesy of sleepfoundation_org

Bruxism is caused by a combination of factors, such as stress and anxiety, misaligned teeth, sleep disorders, medication side effects, and lifestyle factors such as alcohol and drug use. It is important to note that while these factors may increase the risk of bruxism, not everyone with these risk factors will develop the condition. If you suspect you may be grinding or clenching your teeth, it is important to consult a dental professional to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Bruxism diagnosis

The first step in diagnosing bruxism is a thorough examination by a dental professional. During the exam, the dentist will check for signs of teeth grinding or clenching, such as:

Man showing pain and uneven teeth because of grinding (bruxism)
courtesy of triangledentistry_com

1. Wear and tear on the teeth: the dentist will look for signs of wear and tear on the teeth, including flattening or chipping, which can be caused by teeth grinding or clenching.

2. Gum damage: the dentist will also check for gum damage, which can be caused by the pressure of teeth grinding.

3. Jaw pain or stiffness: the dentist will ask about any pain or stiffness in the jaw, which can be a sign of bruxism.

4. Headaches or earaches: the dentist will also ask about any headaches or earaches associated with bruxism.

5. Bite analysis: an analysis of the patient's bite can help determine if there are any alignment issues or irregularities that may be contributing to bruxism.

6. Diagnostic imaging: in some cases, a dental professional may recommend diagnostic imaging, such as x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to evaluate the condition of the jaw joint and surrounding structures.

7. Sleep study: a sleep study may be recommended if bruxism is suspected to occur mainly during sleep. It can help to monitor muscle activity during sleep and diagnose sleep bruxism.

8. Questionnaire: a dental professional may also ask the patient to complete a questionnaire about their symptoms and habits to help diagnose bruxism.

If the dentist suspects a patient has bruxism, they may recommend further testing to confirm the diagnosis, such as a sleep study to monitor their movements during sleep. It is crucial to seek a proper diagnosis if you suspect that you may have bruxism, as early intervention can prevent further damage and improve your overall oral and general health. A dental professional can help determine the best course of treatment for your specific needs.



While a dental professional is the best person to diagnose bruxism, some signs can indicate the condition, even if a person is unaware of their teeth grinding or clenching. These signs include:

1. Sensitive teeth: if a person's teeth are sensitive to hot or cold temperatures, this can be a sign of bruxism.

2. Headaches: frequent headaches can be a sign of bruxism, as the pressure of teeth grinding can cause tension in the head and neck.

3. Pain in the jaw or face: pain or stiffness in the jaw or face can be a sign of bruxism, as the pressure of teeth grinding can cause muscle tension.

4. Difficulty sleeping: bruxism can cause disruptions in sleep, as the grinding and clenching can wake a person up or prevent them from falling asleep.

5. Observing an imprint: even before dental damage begins to occur, it may be possible to observe an imprint of the roof of your mouth on your tongue from sucking any air out of your mouth and keeping pressure on even while relaxed.

Effective treatments for bruxism and teeth grinding:

There are several treatment options available to manage bruxism and alleviate its symptoms. One of the most common approaches is the use of a custom-made dental guard or splint, which can be worn at night to protect teeth and prevent grinding or clenching. Stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, or therapy may also be recommended to address underlying anxiety or stress that may be contributing to bruxism. Medication such as muscle relaxants may be prescribed to alleviate jaw pain or muscle tension. Some common treatments may include:

Woman inserting custom impression nightguard splint
courtesy of kingwoodperfectsmiles_com

1. Dental splints or night guards: these devices are custom-made by a dentist and worn while sleeping to prevent the teeth from grinding against each other. It can prevent further damage to the teeth and alleviate sensitivity and pain.

2. Behavioral changes: stress reduction techniques like meditation or yoga can effectively reduce teeth grinding and clenching. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine, which can exacerbate the condition, can also be helpful.

3. Medications: medications may sometimes be prescribed to alleviate pain and reduce muscle tension. However, these medications are typically used as a last resort, as they can have side effects and may not be effective for everyone.

4. Treatment of underlying conditions: bruxism can sometimes be caused by an underlying condition, such as sleep apnea or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Treating these conditions can help alleviate bruxism symptoms.

How to alleviate teeth grinding

Managing bruxism requires expertise in both dental care and behavioral psychology. Dentists are typically the first line of defense against bruxism, as they can identify the condition and recommend treatments to alleviate the damage caused by grinding and clenching. A dental splint or night guard worn while sleeping can prevent further damage to the teeth, allowing them to heal and reduce sensitivity and pain. Behavioral changes can also help manage bruxism, such as stress reduction techniques like meditation or yoga, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine, which can exacerbate the condition. Treatment can improve the overall quality of life by reducing social anxiety and improving self-esteem.

Bruxism Video on YouTube

While avoiding bruxism altogether may not always be possible, some steps can be taken to reduce the risk of developing the condition or to manage the symptoms.

1. Reduce stress: since stress and anxiety are significant contributors to bruxism, finding ways to manage stress can help to reduce the likelihood of developing the condition. It can include things like exercise, meditation, and deep breathing techniques.

2. Avoid stimulants: avoiding stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can also help to reduce the risk of bruxism. These substances can increase muscle tension and contribute to teeth grinding and clenching.

Man getting enough sleep to show sleeping can help reduce likelihood of developing bruxism
courtesy of smile2impress_com

3. Get enough sleep: getting enough sleep is essential for overall health and can help reduce the likelihood of developing bruxism. It is recommended that adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

4. Wear a mouthguard: wearing a mouthguard at night can help to protect the teeth and reduce the effects of grinding and clenching. Mouthguards can be custom-made by a dentist or purchased over the counter.

5. Practice good oral hygiene: good oral hygiene, including regular brushing and flossing, can help keep the teeth and gums healthy and reduce the risk of developing bruxism.

6. Address underlying medical conditions: treating underlying medical conditions such as sleep apnea or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also help to reduce the likelihood of developing bruxism.

Home remedies that may help reduce clenching and teeth grinding during sleep
courtesy of sleepfoundation_org

Speaking with a dental professional is essential if you suspect you may be grinding or clenching your teeth. They can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options to manage the condition.


Bruxism can be a painful and damaging condition, but effective treatment options are available to manage its symptoms and prevent long-term damage to teeth and the jaw. Individuals can effectively manage their bruxism and improve their oral health by consulting with a dental or medical professional and taking steps to manage stress and anxiety. It is important to note that not everyone who has these risk factors will develop bruxism, and some people who develop bruxism may not have any of these risk factors. If you are experiencing symptoms of bruxism, it is essential to consult with a dental professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Bruxism is a common yet often overlooked dental condition with severe consequences if left untreated. From tooth damage and jaw pain to sleep disorders and headaches, the effects of bruxism can impact your quality of life. It's crucial to be aware of the symptoms and causes of bruxism and seek professional help if necessary. With the right treatment plan and self-care measures, you can alleviate the symptoms of bruxism and protect your dental health for years to come. So, don't ignore the signs - take action today to protect your smile and overall well-being. By addressing the condition early on, individuals can prevent further damage and improve their oral and general health. Bruxism is a silent destroyer of teeth that can have serious implications for your dental and overall health. Remember, prevention is always better than cure.




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