Grinding your teeth at night – officially known as sleep bruxism – is a condition in which you tightly clench, rub, or grind your teeth while asleep. Overnight teeth grinding is often associated with other sleep disorders like sleep apnea or snoring and can cause a host of issues if not addressed. In particular, persistent or severe teeth clenching or grinding can damage your teeth, cause headaches, or even lead to jaw issues.
Unfortunately, each of these conditions can also be tied to other oral health and general medical health issues. It can also be difficult to determine whether you are clenching, grinding, or both during your sleep. It’s even more challenging to determine the severity of your bruxism. For that reason, remain vigilant regarding the following signs of overnight teeth grinding so you can seek dental care:
- Your partner complains of nighttime grinding. If your grinding is persistent or severe, your partner will likely notice the sounds. Alternatively, if you suspect you may be grinding your teeth at night, ask your partner to watch and listen for evidence while you are asleep.
- Worn tooth enamel, or chipped, loose, cracked, and flattened teeth. If your dentist notes that your teeth seem excessively worn, damaged, or flattened, grinding is a likely culprit. If you believe this may be the case, be sure to discuss the possibility with your dentist.
- Tooth pain and sensitivity. Over time, wearing away of your tooth’s enamel can expose the inner layers of your tooth and cause sensitivity or pain. In addition, broken or chipped teeth are almost always painful.
- Fatigued or tight muscles in your jaw, cheeks, and neck. Clenching and grinding require repetitive movements and flexion of your jaw muscle. You may awaken with a tired feeling in your jaw or muscle aches throughout your face and neck associated with this movement.
- Headaches that present as an earache or begin as a dull pain in your temples. Over time, repeated clenching and grinding at night can strain several head, jaw, and neck muscles. This strain can present as a headache or earache when it is actually connected to nighttime grinding.
- Oral damage. Aside from damage to your teeth, clenching and grinding can cause other oral damage. Look for damage to the insides of your cheeks or the edges of your tongue.
- Poor sleep. Night bruxism is a sleep disorder and is often associated with other sleep disorders that cause poor sleep. In addition, each of the above issues can contribute to feeling unrested when you awaken in the morning.
If you’ve noticed one or more of the above signs of nighttime teeth grinding, contact your dentist as soon as possible. If your regular dentist is unable to schedule you an appointment in a timely manner, consider utilizing Emergency Dental Service to locate an alternative provider near you. Call 1-888-350-1340 or contact us online to request a dental provider with walk-in or emergency services in your area.