Teeth grinding at night

A lady being treated for teeth grinding

Teeth grinding is a seriously common problem!

Teeth grinding, otherwise known as bruxism, is a common condition that can lead to a series of issues with people’s teeth, muscles and jaw joints. Studies estimate around 21-30% of adults suffer from night-time grinding of their teeth. Many of these patients don’t even know they’re doing it, so the problem remains undiagnosed.

Bruxism can lead to tooth damage, such as worn biting surfaces, chipping of enamel near the gum line or cracked/fractured teeth. It can also affect the chewing muscles and the TMJ (jaw joint), leading to facial tension and headaches. Over time, the changes in the TMJ can lead to arthritis.


  1. Awake bruxism- commonly caused by stress and habit of clenching or gnashing teeth during the day. This may coincide with certain activities such as work or being stuck in traffic!
  2. Sleep bruxism- a myriad of causes including stress, sleep apnoea or certain medications. Some experts even believe it is a natural evolutionary way for the carnivores among us to sharpen our teeth!
An example of some teeth

How do you know if you grind at night?

It’s definitely not easy to tell if you grind in your sleep but there are a few helpful signs, including:

• Waking up with a tense jaw, facial pain or headaches
• Partner hears the sound of it
• Dentist notices wear facets or flattened areas on your biting surfaces where tooth wear has occurred


Studies have shown that chronic stress can lead to sleep disturbances and impair our body’s ability to fall into a deep sleep. This can lead to a restless night of tossing, turning and teeth grinding.

Management for chronic stress includes:

Chronic Stress

• Mindfulness and meditation
• Cardiovascular exercise like walking or swimming
• Weight-bearing exercises like push-ups
• Stretching- based exercises such as yoga
• Taking a break
• Reducing stressful triggers

Sleep apnoea

About 25% of men and 10% of women have sleep apnoea, a condition wherein the upper airway is obstructed partially or wholly, which either limits oxygen intake or completely stops one’s breathing. This results in repeated awakenings at night, sleep disturbance and teeth grinding.

Sleep apnoea management includes:

• Weight loss
• Breathing machines (continuous positive airway pressure)
• Surgery
• Oral appliances which create more space in the oral cavity to prevent collapse of the upper airway

Certain medications such as benzodiazepines, antihistamines, opiates and others may cause teeth grinding. Managing this side effect is done by consulting with your GP or specialist to weigh up the risk/benefit ratio of the use of these medications.



If you suspect you grind your teeth the first step to diagnose this condition is a dental examination. Your dentist will be able to screen for the tell-tale signs of teeth grinding by checking the size of your facial muscles, wear on your teeth and any cracking of teeth or fillings.

Night guard

A night guard or occlusal splint is the first line treatment of bruxism. It is a specialised type of mouth guard made of acrylic for your teeth to slide across. It is custom made to fit your teeth and is carefully adjusted to your specific bite. Therefore your teeth can’t contact each other in the night and wear cannot occur. Also, the pressures while a patient attempts to grind are evenly distributed onto the flat acrylic surface thereby not putting too much pressure on any one of your teeth. It also means your chewing muscles and TMJ, rather than working through the night, get a good stretch and a break from contracting. This prevents all the negative effects of bruxism and often also leads to a more restful night’s sleep.

A night guard being fitted
Teeth Grinding- the what’s and why’s


Botox is not just an anti-ageing treatment. It is also commonly used to treat teeth grinding. It is injected into a facial muscle called the masseter, which you use to grind your teeth. This leads to approximately 6 months of a weakened muscle, meaning it’s strong enough to chew a steak but not to grind or clench the teeth. Botox is a very effective treatment for bruxism and has helped many many people, especially if they couldn’t get used to wearing a night guard. We offer both night guards and botox treatments as Crows Nest Dentists.

If you suspect you grind or clench your teeth, please make a booking with one of our friendly dentists as soon as works for you!