Why Do I Grind My Teeth in My Sleep?

Teeth grinding, known as bruxism, most often occurs during the night. It is characterized by the clenching of your jaw muscles and sometimes moving your teeth back and forth against each other. It is an involuntary condition that affects individuals of any age, gender, or race. And if you grind your teeth at night, you’re one of the 8% of adults who also suffer from bruxism.

You may have figured out you grind your teeth in one of many ways. Maybe you determined it for yourself because of consistently waking up with a sore jaw or dull headache. Maybe your dentist took a look at your teeth and noticed the wear and tear on your mouth. Maybe a loved one has even awoken to the sound your teeth make when grinding together.

Whichever way you found out, you now want to know why.

Unfortunately, the answer is not always clear. For years, dentists have been asking this question, but there is no definitive answer. However, we have determined that there are many things that contribute to bruxism. Knowing what these are can help you take active steps against them to mitigate the problem of teeth grinding.

Stress and Anxiety

According to The Bruxism Association, nearly 70% of teeth grinding occurs as a result of anxiety or stress. Stress isn’t put on hold when you go to sleep. You are still feeling the same strain and tension, only it is manifesting itself in your jaw and muscles.

Job-related stress is is the most significant factor related to bruxism and can be detrimental to a good night’s sleep. It may even have the potential to become a vicious cycle in which you have stress and anxiety in the workplace caused by not getting enough sleep–and you don’t get enough sleep because the stress is making you grind your teeth. We suggest trying to work on stress-relieving exercises at work.

Malocclusion or Other Teeth Problems

Malocclusion is when your teeth are somehow misaligned, therefore, they do not line up properly when closed. This could be due to crooked teeth that have never been corrected or to a missing tooth which causes all of the other teeth to shift.

Whatever the issue, if your teeth are not able to meet properly when you open and close your mouth, this destabilizes the occlusion of the jaw. This can result in considerable stress on the joints or muscles surrounding the jaw which, in turn, causes bruxism.

Side Effect of Medications

Grinding your teeth at night is a commonly observed side effect of certain medications. In particular, a patient might experience bruxism if taking a drug for sleep, anxiety, or depression. For example, psychotropic drugs such as an antipsychotics or antidepressants (known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) have been known to develop teeth grinding as a possible side effect.

Sleeping Disorder

Having a sleeping disorder is commonly linked with bruxism. Existing conditions that make an individual more prone to suffer from teeth grinding include:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Snoring
  • Breathing pauses during sleep
  • Nighttime acid reflux
  • Parasomnia types like: sleep talking, sleep paralysis, hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations, and injurious behaviours during sleep

If you suffer from one of these disorders, then you are at a higher risk of developing bruxism. Talk to your dentist now to learn more.

Lifestyle Factors

While not directly responsible for teeth grinding, there are a number of lifestyle practices that can contribute to the heightened risk of developing bruxism. Examples include abusing psychoactive substances such as caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs, and medications for depression and anxiety. The use of any of these substances can lead to problems falling asleep and staying asleep, which is known to affect bruxism.

Contact Little Rock Family Dental Care!

If you suffer from bruxism or you’re not sure if you do, talk to a friendly associate at Little Rock Family Dental Care! Do so as soon as possible before any problems attributed to teeth grinding become worse. Contact us today or give us a call at (501) 708-4509 so we can make sure your teeth grinding is addressed.