Do you often wake up in the morning with a sore jaw or a headache?  Does your partner or roommate hear grinding noises emanating while you are asleep?  If so, you may have a problem with grinding or clenching your teeth; dentists have a name for this: bruxism.  If the problem progresses and becomes severe enough it can damage your teeth.

What Causes Bruxism?

According to the American Sleep Association about ten percent of adults experience sleep related bruxism.  Most often stress or anxiety are the reasons a person grinds or clenches their teeth at night. Those in high stress professions are more likely to suffer from bruxism; one dentist remarked that he had a disproportionate number of patients with bruxism who were attorneys. Those with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder also are more likely to develop bruxism.   Bruxism is also connected with a number of sleep conditions, including sleep apnea.  Nearly a quarter of those with sleep apnea also grind their teeth.

While sleep related bruxism can occur at any time in life, it is more common in children, affecting 15 percent of youth.  It is very common for children with ADHD to grind their teeth at night, but bruxism can affect anyone.  As children age, many of them naturally grow out of grinding their teeth at night.  Because young children still have their baby teeth, many dentists choose to wait and see if they grow out of it.  If your child grinds their teeth be sure to mention it at your child’s next dental appointment so that they are aware of it.

Signs and Symptoms of Bruxism

  • Teeth grinding or clenching
  • Morning headaches
  • Sore jaw or facial muscles
  • Worn tooth enamel or chipped or cracked teeth
  • Sensitive or loose teeth
  • Damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek
  • Impressions or indentations on your tongue

If you have noticed any of these symptoms talk with your dentist.  They can assess what damage, if any, has occurred.  If teeth grinding is not addressed, the enamel can be worn away at a much faster rate, while clenching teeth contributes to many temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.

How to Stop Clenching or Grinding Your Teeth at Night

There isn’t a magic cure for bruxism, but there are a lot of different techniques that can be used to try to reduce or eliminate its occurrence by reducing stress.

Here are some of the most effective approaches:

  • When possible address any life situations that are contributing to your stress. One lifestyle change that may help with stress is getting more sleep.
  • Express and let go of negative thoughts by journaling or talking about them. This can help calm your mind and help you process the thoughts and set them aside.
  • Practice releasing tension through mindful awareness. Several times throughout the day and especially as you go to bed, take a moment to become aware of any tension in your jaw, then relax the jaw and face to release the tension.
  • Avoid chewing gum. This can worsen your symptoms.


The most effective solution for preventing the damage caused by bruxism is to use a night time mouth guard.  These guards are different from those worn by athletes, and are designed to help protect your teeth from grinding.

Many local drugstores carry mouthguards, but this type may be less comfortable because it wasn’t designed specifically for your mouth.

Your dentist is also able to make you a custom night guard.  They measure your mouth and teeth and build a guard that is designed just for you.  Custom mouth guards are often the best choice for those who will need to be using them regularly for a long time because of their superior comfort.

Do you think that you may be suffering from bruxism?  Dr. Byers or Dr. Sartelle would be happy to talk with you to see what they can do to help.  Contact us today to set up your appointment!

Dr. Paul G. Byers, DDS, MS Apple Valley Dental Group Front Royal VA 22630Dr. Harry Sartelle, III, Apple Valley Dental Group, Front Royal VA, 22630


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869 John Marshall Highway
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