Why do I grind my teeth at night and how can this affect my health?

From time to time and during periods of stress most of us will have experienced teeth grinding. Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is a condition that causes people to subconsciously clench and grind their teeth together while they sleep. Most people aren’t even aware that they’re doing it until the after-affects have manifested or they’re told by their dentist.

For some people, it can even be a recurring nightly problem, and without intervention or the appropriate dental treatments, it can have some damaging effects on their oral health.

But why do people start grinding their teeth in the first place? Well, there’s actually a few different reasons. Here are some of the biggest.

5 reasons people grind their teeth when they’re asleep

There isn’t a clear and definitive answer as to why people grind their teeth, especially since the underlying causes can vary so much from person to person. However, bruxism has been linked to a few different things. Some of the most pivotal ones include:

Anxiety and stress

Many people subconsciously clench their jaws when they are feeling particularly stressed or anxious. Unfortunately for some, this doesn’t stop when they go to sleep. That’s not to say that everyone who feels stressed while awake grinds their teeth while they sleep. It just means that those who suffer from anxiety-disorders and work high-stress jobs have a slightly increased likelihood of potentially experiencing bruxism episodes at some point in their lives.

Sleep problems like snoring and sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a common condition in which your breathing stops and restarts many times during the course of sleep. Snoring is often considered one of the signs of sleep apnea, but again, that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone who snores has the condition. Studies have suggested that those who snore and/or suffer from sleep apnea are also more likely to have run-ins with bruxism. While there have been a few studies into the links between bruxism and sleep apnea, why they are intertwined is yet to be clearly defined.

Smoking, alcohol and caffeine

Nicotine is a highly effective stimulant found in tobacco and most vaping products. It affects the dopaminergic system (our brain’s reward system) so it’s very common for those who smoke to feel the need to have a cigarette when they feel stressed or anxious. And because nicotine is a stimulant, it can lead to people grinding their teeth in their sleep.

Drinking also increases the likelihood of bruxism. Drinking before going to bed is known to disrupt your sleeping patterns. While alcohol may not be the primary cause of teeth grinding, it has been known to intensify the problem. Though is there isn’t any definitive answers just yet, researchers have suggested that it could be because alcohol disrupts the sleep cycle and can block REM sleep.

When it comes to caffeine, bruxism can be made worse if you drink too much tea, coffee, fizzy pop or energy drinks. While caffeine doesn’t necessarily put strain on your jaw, it can increase the amount of tension in the jaw and neck muscles, worsening any teeth grinding tendencies that were already present. It’s worth noting that caffeine has a half-life of around six hours after consumption, so it’s probably best to think twice before having that cup of coffee at 5pm.

What are the symptoms of teeth grinding?

Symptoms of teeth grinding or bruxism can be hard to spot, especially if you’re unaware that you’re doing it. As well as grinding your teeth and cleaning your jaw, other symptoms include:

How can teeth grinding affect your health?

Not every case of teeth grinding is cause for serious concern, but if it persists it can cause long-standing damage to your teeth. Plus no one wants to constantly wake up with a sore neck and jaw!

If you have any concerns about teeth grinding it’s always best to just make an appointment and pop down to see a dentist. Here at AP Smilecare, our trained and friendly dentists will sit down with you for an initial consultation to find out more about your circumstances, which will go some way into helping us get to the bottom of what is causing you to grind your teeth.

Here at AP Smilecare, we’re dedicated to taking care of your smile with top tier dental treatments, and we have a long history of helping our patients. So if you have any questions, concerns or queries – or you want to book an appointment – get in touch with our friendly team via 01254 297 000 or pop into our Blackburn clinic and we’ll be more than happy to help you achieve your best smile.