Sleep Bruxism (Teeth Grinding) – A Stress Valve!

Do you sometimes wake up to jaw tightness or pain? Or your spouse complains of teeth grinding noise at night? It may be that you are suffering from bruxism.

Bruxism involves contractions of the jaw muscles outside normal chewing. Everyone can have isolated bouts of bruxism and these are not worrisome. However, when teeth grinding and clenching become more frequent, one needs to consult a dentist to prevent damage to the teeth and jaw.

Main causes

People who grind their teeth often experience several psychological aspects of stress and anxiety. These patients are often anxious, they have busy, stressful lives and have trouble relaxing. In most cases, teeth grinding allows for stress release.

With children, bruxism is less chronic than adults and has less consequences because it usually goes away by the teen years. Typically, they suffer from sleep bruxism where stress or psychological shock are involved.

Is it linked to sleep apnea?

Does your dentist recommend you to get a sleep study? This is possible given that teeth grinding is a common indicator for sleep apnea. This happens when the brain triggers grinding to reopen a partially obstructed airway. People who clench or grind their teeth during sleep are more likely to have other sleep disorders, such as snoring and pauses in breathing (sleep apnea).


Bruxism episodes occur mainly during sleep, but may also happen during the day. Some patients gnash teeth only on the day (diurnal) and others only during sleep (nocturnal).

Diurnal bruxism is less common and easier to control. In truth, bruxism bouts are evident and the sufferer may simply relax his jaws. Nocturnal bruxism is more difficult to control, since the subject is not aware of his jaw clenching. But teeth grinding or clenching noise is usually loud enough to awaken the sleep partner.

In cases of quiet bruxism, there can be jaw or dental pain, often accompanied by migraines at awakening. Bruxism is sometimes detected during a dental exam, as it can cause extreme wear of the teeth.


Bruxism can bring disorders to the temporomandibular joints (TMJs), located close to the ears, and to the teeth :
• Pain: bruxism episodes cause pain to the teeth or jaw, accompanied by headaches or neck pain.
• Aesthetics: the teeth are often worn, and if left unchecked, and the teeth continue to be abraded. With wear of the enamel, teeth become more sensitive to cold and heat.
• Function: in the most severe cases, when the teeth are too worn, persons may have chewing problems.


There is no treatment for bruxism, but rather treatment of the causes of this dysfunction. If bruxism is caused by psychological disorders and anxiety, one should address these symptoms by identifying stress and burnout factors.

Sometimes, the dentist will refer patients to a psychologist. If bruxismes episodes are caused by mandibular imbalances, a dentist may offer extensive teeth treatments to recover correct morphology.

A night guard?

In most cases, dentists may recommend the use of a night guard (also called a biteplate) for teeth protection. This will help relax the jaw muscles and prevent contact between the teeth and teeth wear.


For severe bruxism, it is also possible to recommend prosthetics to rebuild heavily worn teeth. With this solution, dentists can help reduce the gnashing of teeth and bring greater comfort to patients.

Are you personally experimenting such discomfort?
Seek dental care, contact us for an appointment.


Approuvé par Dr Côté
Le Dr Côté possède une vaste expérience pour tous les types de traitements dentaires généraux. Il offre depuis près de 15 ans, un service complet d'orthodontie pour corriger les malpositions dentaires à tout âge.
Dr David Côté

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