Signs of night time teeth grinding

Our bodies are capable of carrying out many different functions while asleep. Unfortunately, teeth grinding is one of them.

Medically known as ‘sleep bruxism’, this condition is considered a movement disorder that can often be accompanied by other sleep disorders such as snoring and sleep apnoea.

Bruxism is most commonly related to stress or anxiety, but may also be caused by certain medicines or lifestyle choices, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, consuming an excessive amount of caffeinated drinks, and using recreational drugs.

Wondering if you may have a nocturnal habit of grinding your teeth? Here are some common signs.

Flattened, chipped, broken or loose teeth

Regularly grinding your teeth against each other means an unexpected amount of pressure is being applied. This can physically affect the shape of your teeth, leaving the edges flatter or chipped, or even leading to broken teeth or fillings. In some instances, frequent and/or vigorous grinding can also cause the teeth to loosen – particularly if infection or decay is already present.

Sensitive or painful teeth

Just as the shape of your teeth can be affected by teeth grinding, so too can the function. As the enamel wears down, the inner layers of the tooth become exposed, which house all those sensitive nerve endings. As a result, you might find yourself experiencing pain or discomfort while eating and drinking (particularly hot or cold foods and beverages).

Tired, sore, stiff or locked jaw

In addition to the impacts on your teeth, bruxism can affect your jaw joint and the surrounding muscles. You may experience pain, tightness or discomfort around your jaw (particularly when chewing), or difficulty opening your mouth fully.

Earache-like pain

The way the muscles of the face are connected means that issues with the jaw can lead to pain that feels like an earache. This is due to the temporomandibular joint, which connects the lower jaw to your skull and sits just in front of the ears.

Dull headaches around your temple

Similarly, pain associated with the temporomandibular joint can extend to your temple, resulting in frequent or constant tension-type headaches. In more severe cases of bruxism, a condition known as temporomandibular disorder (TMD) may occur, again causing pain near the ears and temple as well as a clicking sound when you open and close your mouth.

Disrupted sleep

Perhaps unsurprisingly, grinding or clenching your teeth at night time can cause wakefulness. If the grinding is loud enough, it can even wake your partner.

What should I do if I have these symptoms?

If you’ve found yourself nodding away at any of the above list of symptoms, it’s a good idea to book an appointment with your dentist. They will be able to inspect the inside of your mouth for signs of bruxism and subsequently recommend suitable treatments if necessary.