All About Sleep Bruxism: Signs, Complications, and Treatment

Apr 04, 2024
All About Sleep Bruxism: Signs, Complications, and Treatment
Did you know you can grind your teeth during sleep without knowing it? That’s what happens when you have sleep bruxism. Here’s everything you need to know about teeth grinding and jaw clenching while sleeping.

Most people don’t know that they grind their teeth. 

When teeth grinding and jaw clenching happen at night, it’s called sleep bruxism. Unfortunately, you might not know about it unless your sleep partner tells you.

At Hudgens Dental, Roy Hudgens, DMD, specializes in caring for the dental needs of people of all ages, including finding signs of bruxism before it damages your teeth. 

He offers this comprehensive bruxism guide to help you identify the signs of unconscious teeth grinding.

About bruxism 

Bruxism is the medical name for grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw. By definition, you’re unaware of the condition because you don’t consciously or purposefully tighten your muscles.

Bruxism can occur during the day, but most people grind and clench while they sleep (called sleep or nocturnal bruxism). Although sleep bruxism affects people of all ages, it’s more common in children, teens, and young adults.

Bruxism’s cause remains unknown. In most cases, people with bruxism are healthy, and we can’t find a medical problem leading to teeth clenching.

However, daytime bruxism typically occurs when you’re stressed, anxious, or angry, and nighttime bruxism may be associated with an underlying problem, such as:

  • Sleep apnea (and other sleep disorders)
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Allergies
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Certain medications

Of all the conditions in this list, bruxism is most closely linked with sleep disorders that cause partial arousal (wakefulness) while sleeping.

Signs you have sleep bruxism

Teeth grinding and clenching put pressure on teeth. In fact, bruxism can create up to 250 pounds of force, so it’s no surprise that it can result in substantial dental damage.

We find signs of bruxism during dental checkups. A bed partner or others in your household may notice the sounds caused by teeth grinding. Or, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Tooth pain or sensitivity
  • Jaw pain
  • Sore gums
  • Facial pain
  • Headaches
  • Jaw clicking
  • Limited jaw movement
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Injuries to your inner cheek
  • Ear pain (not due to an ear problem)

Contact us if you experience any of these symptoms. 

Complications of bruxism

Bruxism complications primarily affect your teeth and jaw:

Dental complications

Bruxism causes cracked, chipped, and worn teeth. Beyond causing pain, these conditions lead to cavities, an uneven bite, and chewing challenges.

Bruxism also damages dental restorations.

Jaw complications

Without treatment, bruxism may lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders

TMJ disorders occur when bones, cartilage, muscles, and other jaw structures become damaged or inflamed, causing pain and jaw locking.

Treatments for bruxism

When bruxism is associated with a problem like sleep apnea, treating the underlying condition usually improves it. If medications are responsible, we work with your primary care provider or specialist to explore substitutions.

Mild bruxism in young children may not need immediate treatment. Children often outgrow bruxism before complications arise.

Treatments may include:


We typically recommend wearing a mouthguard while sleeping. The soft plastic mouthguard covers your upper and lower teeth, softening the impact of bruxism and preventing dental damage.

Dental splints

You may need a dental splint. They ease tension in the joint, stabilize your jaw, and prevent teeth from contacting each other.

Call Hudgens Dental or book online to get help for pain and other symptoms of bruxism.