Why do I grind my teeth at night?
There are a few theories as to what causes people to grind their teeth at night (“bruxism”). It is commonly attributed to stress, and this certainly seems true in some cases. Most people find their grinding can fluctuate depending on their levels of stress and fatigue. In this scenario, tension in the jaw muscles causes the teeth to clench/grind together.
Another strong theory relates bruxism to dental occlusion. In other words, if the position and structure of your teeth mean that your resting bite is not nice and congruent, your brain may trigger your jaw muscles to move (“grind”) your jaw around to try to find a better resting position. This may explain why young toddlers often grind their teeth – perhaps they are just “getting used” to their new teeth and experimenting with their resting occlusal position.
How do I stop grinding my teeth at night?
If you feel stress may be a contributing factor, there are steps you can take to actively reduce the tension in your jaw muscles. Here are some useful management strategies:
- physiotherapy and massage to loosen jaw muscles can provide significant benefit,
- physiotherapy exercises and strategies can also help to identify and reduce any day-time clenching,
- using heat on the jaw muscles helps to loosen them,
- increasing your general exercise (eg. walking) can reduce stress,
- avoiding caffeine intake in the afternoon/evening, as this is a stimulant,
- psychology/counselling if stress is a significant driver of your grinding,
- dental assessment and management (wearing a night splint can protect your teeth from damage, and can sometimes also be useful in reducing clenching/grinding.
Keep a look-out for our special eBook “RESTORE YOUR JAW”, which is full of useful information about your jaw.