Grinding your teeth at night doesn’t just leave you with an aching jaw the next morning, it can seriously disrupt your sleep. If you’re among the estimated 8 percent of adults who suffer from sleep bruxism, or nocturnal teeth grinding, you’ve probably already been lectured about the potential damage to your teeth and the protective mouth guard you should wear. But the effects go beyond your mouth — poor quality sleep caused by teeth grinding can leave you excessively tired and unable to perform at your best. Learn about the common causes, signs, and symptoms of this problem, and discover how to stop grinding your teeth before it causes permanent damage.

Why People Grind Their Teeth

So why do people grind their teeth? Various causes include potentially unhealthy habits, such as anxiety and stress, alcohol consumption, caffeine consumption, and smoking. Evidence also links snoring and sleep apnea to increased incidences of sleep bruxism.

Signs and Symptoms

It’s possible you’re grinding your teeth in your sleep, and you don’t even know it. All that clenching and grinding commonly leads to the following related symptoms:

  • Dull headaches, particularly in the morning
  • Tired jaw muscles
  • Pain radiating from your jaw to your ear
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Chips, cracks, or looseness in your teeth
  • Damage to the inside of your cheek

Why Grinding Your Teeth is a Problem

When your teeth touch slightly when you chew, food absorbs some of the force. But when you grind your teeth in your sleep, your teeth absorb the full force on their own. Constant grinding can lead to dental problems such as broken teeth, headaches, and enamel damage.

Tips for Coping with Teeth Grinding

To avoid grinding your teeth, you’ll need to determine what factors in your life could be contributing to the problem. You should also meet with your dentist, who can fit you with a mouth guard to protect your teeth and minimize grinding. These other tips can also help reduce grinding:

  • Limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption. Consider caffeine alternatives when you need an energy boost.
  • Avoid chewing anything other than food, including gum.
  • Practice mindfulness throughout the day. If you notice that you’re grinding or clenching, place your tongue between your front teeth to help relax the muscles in your jaw.
  • Place a warm washcloth over the area in front of your earlobe before bed to help relax your jaw muscles before going to sleep.
  • Create a calming bedtime ritual to help relieve stress and relax before sleeping.
  • Try changing your sleep position, especially if you sleep on your back.

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