Teeth Care

Drinking Alcohol & Teeth Grinding: What’s the Connection?

drinking alcohol & teeth grinding

As of January 1st, 2024, we’ve revised this article to ensure the information provided is current and accurate.

Besides a nasty hangover, a night of drinking can also cause you to wake up with a sore jaw or a dull headache.

Why is that?

The culprit is sleep bruxism (SB), a condition where you clench your jaw and grind your teeth at night. Sleep bruxism is pretty common, with about 8% of the population dealing with it regularly.

Bruxism, the habitual grinding or clenching of teeth, remains a prevalent dental concern often linked to various lifestyle factors. As individuals navigate daily stressors and lifestyle choices, the impact of these factors on oral health becomes a focal point of inquiry. Among the array of potential triggers, alcohol consumption emerges as a subject of interest regarding its possible association with teeth grinding.

This article delves into the intricate relationship between alcohol and bruxism, examining how lifestyle choices intertwine with dental health. Understanding the connections between stress, habits, and their effects on teeth grinding is pivotal in promoting comprehensive oral wellness.

You’ve come to the right place if you suspect that you’re dealing with SB (Sleep Bruxism) – especially after nights of drinking.

defend your teeth against the daily grind graphic

What is Sleep Bruxism?

Your jaw consists of four masticatory muscles. They’re what allow you to chew food by moving the mandible at the temporomandibular joint.

Yet, sometimes the masticatory muscles activate during sleep, which causes clenching and grinding. In other words, you’re chewing imaginary food in your sleep.

Why do these muscles sometimes activate?

Experts aren’t entirely sure, but they suspect stress and anxiety are to blame. For example, increased tension in the jaw due to stress can cause clenching and grinding.

Other suspected culprits include:

Sleep apnea and sleep paralysis


Drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy or even Adderall

Certain types of medication, such as SSRIs

While the exact cause of SB is still a mystery, experts have identified habits that make it worse.

Sleep Bruxism and Alcohol

Now that you know what SB is and what causes it, what about alcohol? Is there really a correlation between drinking alcohol and teeth grinding?

The answer is a definite yes, and studies have proven it. One study found that the odds of experiencing SB shoot up 2x if you drink alcohol.

Out of all the habits studied, alcohol and cigarettes caused the highest uptake of SB in the participants.

A night of drinking can cause you to grind your teeth, especially if you’re already prone to SB.

How does alcohol contribute to teeth grinding?

There are a few hypotheses out there as far as why that is. For one, alcohol is notorious for interrupting sleep patterns.

According to the Sleep Foundation, drinking before bed reduces REM sleep and can cause insomnia. Alcohol will also alter the neurotransmitters in your brain – which can cause your muscles to hyperactivate – leading to SB.

Another hypothesis is that excessive dehydration from drinking can cause SB, too. Since your muscles aren’t hydrated, they will begin to spasm. That can not only cause teeth grinding but also trigger a lousy neck ache in the morning.

Research has drawn attention to the potential link between alcohol consumption and an increased likelihood of experiencing bruxism. Alcohol, as a central nervous system depressant, can impact neurotransmitter activity, altering the body’s response to stress and relaxation. While the direct causative relationship between alcohol and bruxism remains a subject of ongoing study, evidence suggests that excessive or habitual alcohol intake may exacerbate teeth grinding tendencies, particularly in individuals prone to stress-induced bruxism. The physiological effects of alcohol on muscle tension and sleep patterns may contribute to the manifestation or aggravation of bruxism, making it a noteworthy consideration in understanding the complexities of this dental condition.

Does the type of alcohol matter?

The type of alcohol consumed may have varying impacts on bruxism, but research on this specific aspect remains somewhat limited. While certain studies suggest that different types of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, spirits) could have diverse effects due to their varying alcohol content, acidity levels, or other constituents, conclusive evidence regarding their direct impact on teeth grinding is yet to be firmly established.

Factors like alcohol volume, individual tolerance, and personal reactions may also play significant roles. Therefore, while understanding the potential influence of different alcohol types on bruxism is valuable, further research is needed to delineate specific correlations between beverage types and their effects on teeth grinding.

Are there other lifestyle factors that exacerbate teeth grinding alongside alcohol?

Certainly, several lifestyle factors can exacerbate teeth grinding alongside alcohol consumption. Stress and anxiety remain primary triggers for bruxism.

High-stress lifestyles, work pressures, or personal anxieties often contribute significantly to teeth grinding, and when combined with alcohol consumption, can exacerbate the condition. Other lifestyle factors, such as caffeine intake, smoking, recreational drug use, and certain medications, might also contribute to or intensify bruxism.

Poor sleep habits, irregular sleep schedules, and sleep disorders can further compound the effects of alcohol and stress on teeth grinding, creating a complex interplay of factors influencing this dental condition. Understanding and managing these lifestyle elements holistically is crucial in addressing and mitigating bruxism.

Can occasional or moderate alcohol consumption cause teeth grinding, or is it primarily linked to heavy drinking?

Occasional or moderate alcohol consumption may contribute to teeth grinding, although the severity and frequency might differ compared to heavy or habitual drinking.

Research suggests that while excessive alcohol intake is more strongly associated with bruxism, even occasional or moderate consumption can impact muscle tension and sleep patterns, potentially triggering teeth grinding in susceptible individuals.

Factors like individual sensitivity, alcohol tolerance, and the presence of other stressors or lifestyle influences play pivotal roles in determining the extent to which moderate alcohol consumption contributes to bruxism. Therefore, while heavy drinking might have a more pronounced effect, occasional or moderate alcohol intake could still be a contributing factor in some cases of teeth grinding.

Is teeth grinding reversible if it’s caused by alcohol?

Reducing or stopping alcohol consumption can alleviate or potentially reverse teeth grinding if it’s identified as a contributing factor. However, the reversibility of bruxism solely due to alcohol cessation might vary among individuals. In cases where alcohol plays a significant role in triggering or exacerbating teeth grinding, cutting back on or eliminating alcohol consumption can lead to improvements in muscle tension and sleep patterns, potentially reducing the frequency or severity of bruxism episodes.

Yet, it’s essential to note that bruxism often involves multiple contributing factors, including stress, anxiety, dental issues, and other lifestyle habits. Addressing these underlying causes comprehensively alongside changes in alcohol consumption is crucial for effective management. Seeking professional advice from a dentist or healthcare provider can provide tailored strategies to address bruxism and its root causes, leading to better oral health and potentially reducing teeth grinding episodes.

How to Prevent Sleep Bruxism

Okay, so you know that alcohol is terrible for triggering SB by now. Besides limiting your alcohol consumption, what else can you do to prevent episodes of SB?

Preventing sleep bruxism involves a combination of lifestyle changes, stress management, and sometimes dental interventions. Here are some strategies that can help prevent or reduce sleep bruxism:

  1. Stress Management: Since stress is a significant trigger, stress reduction techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or therapy can help alleviate bruxism.
  2. Limiting Stimulants: Reduce or avoid caffeine and alcohol, especially close to bedtime, as they can worsen teeth grinding.
  3. Mouth Guards or Splints: Custom-fitted mouth guards or splints provided by a dentist can protect teeth from damage caused by grinding and clenching during sleep.
  4. Good Sleep Hygiene: Maintain a regular sleep schedule, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and ensure a comfortable sleep environment to promote better sleep quality.
  5. Muscle Relaxation Techniques: Gentle jaw and facial muscle exercises, warm compresses, or massages before bedtime can help relax jaw muscles.
  6. Identifying Triggers: Keep a journal to track patterns of bruxism episodes, noting any activities, foods, or stressors that might precede teeth grinding. This can help identify triggers and adjust habits accordingly.
  7. Professional Consultation: Consult a dentist or healthcare provider to evaluate the severity of bruxism. They might suggest treatments like biofeedback, therapy, or muscle relaxants in severe cases.

Preventing sleep bruxism often involves a multi-faceted approach that addresses both the physical and psychological aspects contributing to teeth grinding during sleep. Consulting with a healthcare professional can provide personalized guidance and treatment options tailored to your specific situation.

The #1 way dentists fight back against bruxism is with a night guard. It’s a fitted mouthpiece made from soft materials that serve as a barrier between your teeth. If you start to clench and grind, the night guard will prevent any damage. Occasional or moderate alcohol consumption may contribute to teeth grinding, although the severity and frequency might differ compared to heavy or habitual drinking. Research suggests that while excessive alcohol intake is more strongly associated with bruxism, even occasional or moderate consumption can impact muscle tension and sleep patterns, potentially triggering teeth grinding in susceptible individuals.

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Daily Habits That Make Sleep Bruxism Worse

Do you frequently chew gum during the day? If so, that may cause sleep bruxism at night. Excessive chewing during the day gets your brain used to clenching your jaw – making it easier to happen at night.

In fact, chewing on anything for long periods is a sure-fire way to trigger SB. If you’re constantly nibbling on pencils, pens, and toothpicks, that could be why you wake up with a sore jaw.

If you’re a notorious coffee lover, eight or more cups a day can cause clenching and grinding. Excessive caffeine stimulates your brain and muscles during sleep, which can trigger SB. The same is true for smoking cigarettes, as the nicotine in tobacco has the same effect.

Closing Thoughts: Drinking Alcohol and Teeth Grinding

There is a strong correlation between drinking alcohol and teeth grinding. A night of drinking with friends may trigger an episode of SB, but a night guard will protect you. Beyond that, you’re best to avoid certain habits such as drinking alcohol, coffee, and using tobacco.

As long as you have a custom night guard by your side, you can still enjoy the things you like without worrying about damaging your teeth.

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sentinel mouthguards author
Ashely Notarmaso

Ashely Notarmaso is the author behind the Sentinel Mouth Guard Blog. She is the CEO and founder of Sentinel Mouth Guards (Founded in 2012) Her long-time work in the dental mouth guard arena and her excellent ability to listen to customer concerns in this often contradictory field has laid the groundwork to explore night guard/mouth guard fabrication in-depth and address real concerns. With the help of her team, she has created a unique fabrication method that promises a great fitting custom oral appliance every time. Amazon’s choice for #1 mouth guard! Visit the online store http://sentinelmouthguards.com

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