What Is Sleep Bruxism? Causes, Effects, and Treatment for Teeth Grinding

Last updated: September 5th, 2023

What Is Sleep Bruxism?

Bruxism is involuntary clenching and grinding of the teeth that typically occurs most often during sleep. Sleep bruxism is usually a subconscious action — meaning that it happens involuntarily while a person is asleep. It's estimated that up to 25 percent of adults Trusted Source Journal of the American Dental Association JADA, the ADA's flagship and largest circulated publication, is the nation's leading source for oral health information for both the profession and public. View Source may exhibit signs of bruxism.

Those affected usually don't know that they grind their teeth until someone shares their observations or the person visits a dentist and the dentist notices tooth or jaw-related damage or pain. Teeth grinding can range from mild to extreme. Some individuals may only grind their teeth a few times a week, while others may grind several times a night for extended periods, sometimes applying up to 250 pounds of force Trusted Source American Sleep Association The American Sleep Association (ASA) is a professional medical association focused on the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders. View Source with each bite.

Who Is at Risk for Teeth Grinding?

Sleep bruxism is most common in children, adolescents, and young adults, and usually diminishes by adulthood.

Studies also suggest that bruxism is more common in men than women, and that certain psychological Trusted Source Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment (NDT) publishes papers written to increase knowledge of the nervous system and behavior. View Source and neurological Trusted Source National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Established in 1950, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is one of the federal government’s leading research agencies for neurological conditions. View Source conditions may also increase the risk of bruxism.

What Are the Effects of Teeth Grinding?

Teeth grinding can cause many physical effects. It can cause excessive wear on the teeth, leading to chipped and worn-down incisors and molars. It also can lead to jaw pain, facial muscle tenderness, headaches, and toothaches. Teeth grinding can result in poor sleep, which can cause higher levels of fatigue during the day.

Grinding the teeth can also lead to long-term consequences, like permanent jaw damage and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction. It’s important to ensure that bruxism is managed, as it can have serious physical and psychological consequences.

Treatments for Sleep Bruxism

The most common treatment plan for sleep bruxism involves managing pain and avoiding triggers for grinding the teeth. As with other medical conditions, treatment options may vary from person to person, and effectivenes varies depending on severity.

Managing tooth damage associated with teeth grinding requires help from a dentist. Dentists can fit patients for an appliance called a mouthguard, a device made from acrylic or other plastic materials. The mouthguard is designed to cushion teeth against damage caused by bruxism. The American Dental Association Trusted Source The American Dental Association With more than 160,000 members, the ADA is the leading source of oral health related information for dentists and their patients. View Source recommends talking to a dentist if you think you or your child is grinding their teeth.

Mouth Exercises and Massages

Simple mouth exercises and massages can help reduce jaw and facial muscle pain associated with bruxism. Exercises may involve gently moving the jaw back and forth, or pressing on the area of the jaw associated with the tightest muscles. These exercises help relax the muscles and can help reduce pain and relieve muscle tension from teeth grinding.

Stress Reduction

Stress is a common trigger of bruxism. It is important to practice good stress management techniques and to identify the underlying causes of stress in order to reduce or eliminate teeth grinding associated with stress.

Exercising in moderation, getting enough sleep, and talking with a counselor can help reduce stress and its associated effects, such as sleep bruxism. Depending on the situation, medication may also be prescribed to help reduce stress and anxiety.


In severe cases, a doctor might prescribe a medication to help reduce teeth grinding in patients with severe bruxism. Medications such as muscle relaxers and antidepressants can help reduce stress and lower the incidence of teeth grinding.

Tips for Bed Partners of People Who Grind Their Teeth

Having a bed partner of someone who grinds their teeth can cause disruptions in sleep and overall stress levels. While the person who is grinding their teeth may not be aware of it, the bed partner is likely to be disturbed by the sound and movement associated with bruxism. Bed partners should ask the person who grinds their teeth to talk to their doctor for tips on managing teeth grinding.

Managing the effects of bruxism can involve subtle lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol and caffeine, eliminating snacks before bedtime, and avoiding sleep deprivation. For the bed partner, noise-cancelling headphones, earplugs, or a sleep mask may help reduce the noise and vibration from the teeth grinding.

When Should You See a Doctor About Sleep Bruxism?

Most people with bruxism are unaware of the condition until a dentist or other healthcare professional mentions it. However, it is important to be aware of the signs of bruxism and to seek treatment if bruxism is suspected.

If teeth grinding is suspected, talk to a dentist as soon as possible. An experienced dentist can create dental appliances to prevent teeth grinding and its associated damage. Additionally, it may be advisable to talk to a doctor or sleep specialist about possible treatment options for bruxism and its associated symptoms.

The Bottom Line

Sleep bruxism is a condition that involves teeth grinding and clenching during sleep. It is common in children, adolescents, and young adults and can cause damage to teeth as well as heightened levels of fatigue. Treatment for teeth grinding may involve avoiding triggers, managing discomfort, mouth exercises and massages, mouthguards, stress reduction, and medication.

If you grind your teeth or clench your jaw, it’s best to talk to your dentist or doctor for tips on managing teeth grinding and preventing potential long-term effects.

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