Grinding Your Teeth at Night? Find Out Why

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, most often occurs at night. It happens in cycles throughout the night, typically corresponding to your sleep cycles. There are a number of reasons why people grind their teeth. Once it has been identified as a problem, a dentist can recommend ways to reduce or prevent the nightly activity. Here are some of the common reasons for teeth grinding and why it is harmful to a person's oral health.

Stress and Anxiety

Some people deal with stress in their waking hours by grinding their teeth, but stress can also cause you to grind your teeth in your sleep! This form of bruxism is thought to be the most common. When the stress is reduced by a change in your situation or through therapy, the grinding should stop.

Sleep Disorders

As the body relaxes during the various sleep cycles, the muscles in your mouth, jaw, tongue and throat relax. This can allow tissues to settle into the airway and block you from taking a breath. Some people will grind their teeth at night in an attempt to reopen the airway so they can breathe easier. Treatment of the sleep disorder by using appliances to keep the airway open at night will prevent you from grinding your teeth.


Some people start grinding their teeth at night when they take certain medications. Medications used to treat depression have been shown to cause bruxism, but only in some people. A change of medications will often stop this side effect.

Abnormal Bite

If one or more teeth have shifted out of alignment and caused an abnormal bite, teeth grinding at night can begin. Basically, the jaw tries to deal with the uncomfortable feeling of the shifted teeth, and grinding may be its solution. A visit with a dentist is necessary to determine how far off the teeth have shifted. You can be fitted with a night guard to reduce the painful effect of bruxism. You also can choose to have orthodontic work to realign the teeth.

Cold Weather

As the temperatures start to take a dive, you may start shivering from the frigid air. Your teeth might even chatter, which can grind down your pearly whites over time. Make sure you're bundling up before heading outside this winter, and maybe throw a few extra blankets on the bed for when you sleep. Those extra layers plus a mouth guard will help protect your teeth from any further damage.

Lifestyle Factors

While it isn't known exactly how certain lifestyle behaviors cause teeth grinding, a few that appear to increase the risk include:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Using recreational drugs
  • Smoking

If you have developed bruxism, stopping or reducing these activities may prevent the grinding from continuing and getting worse.

Have you woken up with a painful or fatigued jaw? This is often the first sign that you're grinding your teeth at night. A visit to the dentist should be the next step to determine how extensive the bruxism is and what may be causing it. Your dentist will also evaluate how much damage has occurred to the teeth and jaw and make recommendations as to how to prevent the problem from getting worse. In many cases, your dentist will recommend you wear a night guard, which is custom fitted to your mouth and made by your dentist.

If you suspect you are grinding your teeth in your sleep, schedule an appointment at Great Lakes Dental today to speak to our dentist.