Have you ever caught yourself grinding or clenching your teeth during the day? Maybe after a particularly stressful meeting at work, or after you stubbed your toe on your door frame in the dark?

Perhaps you’ve had a partner or spouse complain to you that your teeth grinding woke them up at night. Or maybe you keep waking up with a sore jaw or headaches in the morning with seemingly no reason. 

These are all signs of bruxism, commonly referred to as teeth grinding. 

But if you don’t even realize you’re doing it, is grinding your teeth bad for you? Over time, bruxism can significantly impact the teeth. We’ll examine this, plus common causes, symptoms, and treatments for bruxism in today’s blog post. Let’s get started.

What is bruxism?

Bruxism is a condition where one excessively and involuntarily grinds, gnashes, or clenches their teeth. It most commonly occurs during sleep, but can also happen when you are awake. Teeth grinding and clenching is thought to be extremely common among children, with some studies showing up to 50% of children have the condition. But as people age, those numbers decrease. An estimated 15% of adolescents and 8% of middle aged adults are thought to experience bruxism. 

However, it’s difficult to tell the true number of people with bruxism. Because bruxism happens most commonly when we sleep, many people aren’t even aware they have it. 

Over time, bruxism can damage your teeth and jaw, and can also open the door to some sleep disorders such as snoring and sleep apnea. That’s why it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of bruxism and work with your dentist to treat teeth grinding.

What are the signs and symptoms of teeth grinding?

Although some people can go for years without ever realizing they grind or clench their teeth, more often than not, there are signs that will appear to let you know. Some of these signs are:

  • Your partner or spouse tells you they heard you grinding or clenching your teeth while asleep – sometimes the sound can be loud enough to wake a sleep partner!
  • Waking up with dull headaches, usually beginning in the temples
  • Pain or soreness in the jaw, face, or neck
  • Tooth pain or tooth sensitivity
  • Sleep disruption
  • Increasingly worn teeth, especially if teeth have visible ridges
  • Chipped or cracked teeth

Do these symptoms seem familiar to you? If so, contact Timberhill Dental today. We’ll work with you to help determine the cause of your bruxism, and create a treatment plan best suited to you and your teeth.

Why do people grind their teeth?

People grind their teeth for a variety of different reasons — especially in response to feelings of anger, stress, fear, anxiety, or deep concentration. However, most of the time, teeth grinding results from:

  • Stress and anxiety – increased or unmanaged stress and anxiety is thought to be the most common cause of teeth grinding and clenching 
  • Family history – bruxism often runs in the family, so if your parent or grandparent has experienced bruxism, you are more likely to develop it as well 
  • Medications – certain medications, like some antidepressants, have been linked to an increased risk of teeth grinding and clenching
  • Smoking, or drinking alcohol or caffeine – may increase your risk of developing bruxism
  • Certain health conditions – Parkinson’s disease, dementia, epilepsy, ADHD, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), and sleep apnea have all been linked with bruxism

Does grinding your teeth damage them?

Yes, if untreated, moderate to severe cases of bruxism can damage your teeth, and can also lead to jaw disorders like temporomandibular jaw disorder (TMJ), or frequent headaches. 

Many of our patients are surprised to learn that when you’re asleep, you can clench your teeth with a force of up to 250 pounds. That’s a lot of stress to put on the teeth! Continuously grinding or clenching your teeth can:

  • Cause your teeth to wear, creating a flattened effect on the bottoms of your teeth
  • Weaken the enamel — your tooth’s strong and protective outer layer 
  • Lead to chipped or fractured teeth from the force of grinding and clenching, which may require a crown or root canal to treat
  • Prompt teeth to loosen 
  • Damage the inner cheek tissue from unconsciously chewing on it 

Thankfully, there are some simple steps you can take to help treat bruxism if you know or suspect you’re experiencing it. Let’s take a closer look.

How can I stop grinding my teeth?

If you’re exhibiting symptoms of bruxism, it’s best to contact our team here at Timberhill Dental right away. Dr. Black or Dr. Hickson will examine your teeth and jaw, and work with you to identify the possible cause of your bruxism, plus recommend a treatment plan just for you, which might include:


Lifestyle changes

If the root of your bruxism stems from stress or anxiety, there are a few techniques you can implement into your daily life to help ease the effects and breathe a little easier. Consider trying: 

  • Practicing yoga or meditation 
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Exercises to relax your jaw 
  • Neck and head massages
  • Talking with a licensed therapist 



Also referred to as night guards, mouthguards are one of the most common treatments for bruxism. They are often made from a hard acrylic or a soft plastic, and custom molded to fit over your top or bottom teeth. 

Mouthguards hold your jaw in a certain position, discouraging you from clenching and grinding it while asleep. It also acts as a barrier between the top and bottom teeth, protecting the teeth and jaw from the full force of teeth grinding. 

You may see some “boil and bite” or other over-the-counter options when it comes to mouthguards — however, we don’t recommend these. They run the risk of not fitting correctly and misaligning your jaw while you sleep, which may make bruxism worse. They also become easily breakable over time. 

 If you are experiencing bruxism, it’s best to be fitted for a custom night guard that will help decrease the negative effects of sleep bruxism and help you get a better night’s sleep.


Other treatment options

  • At home pain management – such as cold and hot compresses, over the counter pain medication like Ibuprofen, and avoiding hard or chewy foods that might irritate your teeth and jaw
  • Botox – Botox is a natural muscle relaxant, and when injected into the jaw muscles — specifically the Masseter muscle, which is responsible for chewing — it can help reduce clenching and teeth grinding

Contact Timberhill Dental today

If you’re experiencing symptoms of teeth grinding, don’t wait — contact the team at Timberhill Dental today!