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Ever wake up with a throbbing headache for no apparent reason? Or has your dentist suggested you invest in an expensive mouth guard to wear at night to protect your teeth? Perhaps your jaw clicks every time you open or close your mouth. Well if any of this sounds like you, then you might be clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth at night while you sleep.
This can cause many potential health problems, like enamel loss, cracked teeth, migraines, and much more. So how do you stop doing something that you are completely asleep whenever you are doing it? In this post we will answer this question and many more.
We are going to go over everything you need to know about clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth at night, and many different things you can do to stop grinding your teeth. We will share ways to protect your teeth and jaw with our top favorite mouth guards as well.
You may or may not have heard the term Bruxism before. Bruxism is simply the name for the condition where you grind, gnash, or clench your teeth together at night. There is also Awake Bruxism, which is when someone unconsciously clenches their jaw or grinds their teeth while they are awake.
When you have Sleep Bruxism your jaw muscles engage and tense up, causing you to clench, grind, or even chatter your teeth together.
The clenching and grinding tend to be the most dangerous for your overall health and well being as this can cause permanent damage to your teeth.
When we go into a deep sleep, most of our body is put into a state of paralysis. This allows your mind to dream without your body trying to act out everything going on in your dreams. However, some parts of your body may still have the ability to move or flew during deep sleep, like your eye movements and your jaw muscles. These movements are all done without your conscious mind choosing to do them. Which of course makes it difficult to stop whenever you are not consciously choosing to clench your jaw, or even aware you are doing it during the fact.
However, there are some thoughts to the reasons as to why we clench our jaws when we sleep. One is that there is a vitamin deficiency causing muscle cramps.
Another common reason as to why we grind our teeth is because of stress. Whenever we are angry, stressed, or nervous, it is common to tighten and clench the muscles in our jaws. It is believed that as we hold onto stress or tension throughout the day this can be transferred into jaw tension while we sleep.
You may be wondering… What actually happens when I grind my teeth? Why is it such a problem? It may not seem like something to worry about. However, clenching and grinding your teeth at night can lead to a number of different health issues. Keep reading to learn more.
One of the first signs that you mat be clenching your teeth at night is if you wake up with headaches. This is caused by the amount of tension and pressure applied for hours on end by your clenched jaw.
These headaches typically start around your temples but can also go up your neck and cause your entire head to hurt. If you are waking up with these headaches try to massage your jaw, temples, and the back of your neck for relief.
Learn more about headaches and how to sleep better with them in our post: Headaches & Sleep
All of that pressure on your teeth and jaw is bound to have a negative impact. Jaw pain and stiffness is the most common and least severe symptom caused clenched teeth. You may find when you wake up that your jaw is reluctant to open and feels stiff and achy. Some may experience lock jaw. This is when your jaw muscles spasm and cause your mouth to “lock” shut.
Then there is TMJ (Temporomandibular joint dysfunction) this is when the joint in your jaw is inflamed. Which can cause a clicking or popping sound or sensation whenever you open and close your jaw. If clenching and grinding your teeth continues, these symptoms can all increase and become much worse. Making it difficult to even eat normally or without discomfort.
Another first sign of teeth grinding or clenching is when you begin to loose tooth enamel. There are different layers to your teeth, your dentist may mention that your first layer of hard outer enamel has been worn down in places. This can actually create small divots in your teeth. This reveals a softer layer of your tooth that will wear down even faster.
You are also exposing your teeth to collecting food and bacteria which can quickly lead to cavities. This can be a slippery slope that can lead to many other more serious problems with your teeth, which we will get into next.
In extreme conditions and prolonged teeth grinding and jaw clenching, your teeth may reach a very bad place. Perfectly healthy teeth can literally crack from the pressure caused by teeth clenching.
While teeth grinding can literally grind down your teeth and shorten the tooth overall, this is not just a cosmetic issue, this can reveal lower layers of the tooth, expose nerves, and can eventually cause issues that will lead to complete tooth loss. Sever cavities are also common is extreme cases like this which can also lead to tooth loss.
Jaw clenching at night can also cause inner ear pain. You may even think that you have an ear infection, yet the doctor says your ears are clean and healthy.
This is because your pain is not being caused by an inner ear infection, but rather the pressure in your jaw.
This often coincides with migraines and headaches that are also caused by teeth grinding.
Another unfortunate side effect of teeth clenching is when you end up chewing or biting the insides of your cheeks. This can cause cuts, open sores, cold sores, and general pain and discomfort.
You may also find that as soon as you have an inflamed section of your cheek it can become difficult to chew without accidentally biting that part of your cheek again. Talk about painful.
Stress can be a trigger for bouts of teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Learning how to properly manage stress and relax your body and mind can greatly reduce the likelihood of jaw clenching.
This is especially important to do right before you go to sleep. Find ways to breath, let go of the stress, anger, or anxiety. Try not to even watch any stressful TV shows or read anything stressful in the evenings either. Relaxation is key to low tension in the body.
Need a little help calming down before bed? Head over to our post: Bedtime Relaxation Exercises
Try to train your jaw to relax at night. If you are heading off to sleep and you feel that you have tension in your jaw, try to make it relax. Gently open and close your jaw.
You can also you massage the muscles around the jaw before you go to sleep and whenever you wake up. This will help your jaw to relax and can ease pain caused by clenched jaw muscles.
First and foremost, this will help to protect your teeth.
However, it is often found that those who wear a mouth guard while they sleep are less likely to continue clenching their jaws or grinding their teeth while they sleep.
Which is not only helpful for protecting the health of your teeth, but also helps to reduce headaches, ear aches, and other pain related to jaw clenching.
Caffeine is a stimulant and can cause your body to tense who while you sleep.
One way to avoid this and have your body be more relaxed is by avoiding stimulants like caffeine in the evenings.
We suggest not having caffeine at least 4 – 6 hours before you plan on going to sleep. This gives your body enough time to process the caffeine completely before heading off to sleep.
Need help cutting out caffeine? Considering dropping it completely? Head over to our post: Caffeine Free: The Benefits of Quitting Caffeine
While you may think a glass of wine at night may help you relax. Teeth clenching actually increases at night after consuming alcohol. The more you drink the worse it may become as well. Excessive drinking can make teeth grinding and clenching much worse. If you find you have had a bit too much to drink one evening, you may have noticed before that your body has a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep.
This is caused by a number of reactions to alcohol. However, as you struggle to rest your body attempts to self soothe, either by tossing and turning, rubbing legs together, or sometimes by clenching or grinding teeth.
Click to read our post: Our Guide To Why Alcohol and Sleep Don’t Mix
It is believed that Bruxism may be partially caused by vitamin deficiencies. So be sure to take a multivitamin daily. However, you may want to see your doctor and have blood work taken, especially if you have other symptoms commonly caused by vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
The blood test will help determine if there is anything specific you are lacking from your diet that can be added back in.
Learn more about how vitamin d effects your sleep in our post: Vitamin D And Sleep
If your teeth clenching is caused by stress or anxiety, then sleeping with a weighted blanket may help immensely. Weighted blankets are commonly used with deep pressure therapy. This pressure that weighted blankets apply to your body is similar to a hug or a snuggle.
This sensation causes chemical reactions in your brain that cause you and your body to relax and calm down. This can help to relieve and even prevent jaw clenching throughout the night.
Learn more about weighted blankets and their many uses in our post: Weighted Blanket Benefits
Stress is the most common cause for teeth grinding. However, even when we think we are relaxed we often clench or grind our teeth while we sleep. There are many ways to try and relax the jaw. The best way to keep your teeth safe from the many damaging effects of Bruxism is with a mouth guard. Not only will this protect your teeth if you do indeed clench your jaw or grind you teeth as you sleep.
A mouth guard can also lower the amount in which you clench your teeth all together. Which is even better of a solution. We hope this information, tips and product recommendations helps you to get relief quickly. If you are concerned you have a problem with clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth we highly recommend you talk to your dentist.