how do I know I'm grinding my teeth

Signs You Are Grinding Your Teeth

Checked and updated for accuracy on February 7th, 2023.

During the height of COVID-19, with so many unforeseen challenges, dentists saw a record-breaking number of cracked teeth, headaches, and sore jaws.

Many people were diagnosed with bruxism. Bruxism is excessive teeth grinding and clenching. This is a common sleep disorder that affects over 200,000 people in the US per year.

  • teeth sensitivity to hot and/or cold
  • pain in jaw, teeth, face
  • headaches upon waking in the morning
  • chipped or broken teeth
  • shortened teeth/teeth flattening
  • jaw popping/clicking

Bruxism generally results secondary to other problems. Let’s explore details about this disorder and what you can do to stop it. It’s essential to know what bruxism is, why it happens, and what to do about it.

What causes excessive teeth grinding?

Bruxism is often linked to stress and anxiety. The mounting stress causes us to hold tension in our neck, back, shoulders and jaw. Bruxism can also be caused by sleep problems such as sleep apnea, taking certain medications and drugs and bite alignment issues.

Bruxism = excessive teeth grinding and clenching

5 causes of teeth grinding

Bruxism is described as the act of grinding or gnashing the teeth together involuntarily. People suffering from bruxism consistently find themselves clenching their teeth together or grinding their teeth either during the day, at night or both.

Whether you’re familiar with bruxism or not, it’s essential to know the severe effects of bruxism and how it can influence your general health.

There’s no exact reason why this teeth grinding disorder occurs, but studies suggest several possible underlying causes. These factors include:

Sleep disorders

New research reveals that people who experience sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, are more prone to grind their teeth at night. Apnea describes a disruption to breathing while a person is asleep resulting in oxygen deprivation and stress to the body. However, some studies show a weak association between sleep apnea and teeth grinding, so more research is needed. Some scientists suggest that patients who experience sleep paralysis, hallucinations, behave aggressively while asleep, or talk in their sleep are more likely to experience bruxism.

Anxiety and stress

Stress or anxiety can be a powerful driving force behind bruxism. Environmental and social circumstances can produce a damaging psychological effect leading to subconscious teeth grinding while asleep. Studies show that excessive work-related stress or a traumatic event can affect your sleep and result in sleep bruxism. Anxiety and stress lead to many general health ailments, and sufferers shouldn’t overlook bruxism.


Specific life factors may aggravate bruxism, including excessive alcohol consumption, recreational drugs (i.e., cocaine and ecstasy), ingesting six or more cups of caffeinated drinks a day, and smoking. Take a thorough look at your daily routine, and make the appropriate changes to lessen or stop grinding teeth at night.


Some medications, including antipsychotics and antidepressants, also aggravate teeth-grinding. Talk to your doctor about your medications and ask if the issue could be a side effect.


What can I do to stop it?

People are often surprised to learn they’re grinding their teeth. But once they know, they’re usually eager to know how to stop the dangerous condition. A specific solution to teeth grinding can be difficult to identify. But several medical options and treatments can help control the situation and prevent more damage to the teeth.

If you suspect stress is causing your teeth grinding disorder, consult your doctor about options to manage anxiety. But if a sleep disorder is driving bruxism, the root cause of bruxism needs to be explored. For example, 70% of patients that snore suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. A sleep test helps determine the seriousness of this problem.

Dental Night Guards are the most common way professionals treat bruxism. Night guards are devices worn at night to protect the teeth against grinding during sleep. Night guards prevent tooth damage by absorbing the impact caused by grinding. In most cases, you will continue to grind your teeth while wearing the mouth guard. The mouth guard simply protects the teeth and can reduce or eliminate headaches, jaw pain, jaw tension, tooth sensitivity, and more.

Exercising the jaw

Another way to limit bruxism is by practicing daily jaw exercises. Consult either a chiropractor or your dentist to guide you on the type of exercises to use. But start by using warm, moist heat with a washcloth on the jaw to help relax the muscles. Identify sore muscles by pushing along the area in front of your ears and your temples. Then, place the washcloth over these areas and finger massage any tender spots.

Train yourself to stop clenching or grinding your teeth

You can also control some teeth grinding habits by training yourself not to clench or grind your teeth during the day. Do this by putting the tip of your tongue in between your teeth from time-to-time. This practice trains your jaw muscles to relax and reminds you to stop clenching.

Avoid excessive alcohol intake

Studies have shown that excessive intake of alcohol tends to aggravate teeth grinding. For this reason, bruxers should avoid excessive alcohol intake.

Keep your teeth away from ice cubes, pens, pencils etc

Bruxism patients shouldn’t chew on pencils, pens, gum, or non-food items. Remember what mom said: Your teeth are not tools!

What does bruxism have to do with TMJ disorder?

Bruxism and TMJ disorder are two different issues, but these conditions can relate to each other. As mentioned earlier, bruxism is a teeth grinding disorder. TMJ pain can result from excessive grinding, clenching, jaw misalignment, arthritis or bone loss.

People suffering from bruxism increase their risk of TMD disorders, including pain, headaches, and jaw joint noise.

Non-Specific Bruxism Vs Specific Bruxism

This teeth grinding disorder is classified into two categories, i.e., specific and non-specific bruxism. Specific bruxism is the type of bruxism that occurs naturally without any prior medical condition. Non-specific bruxism occurs as a result of a psychiatric or medical condition. Non-specific bruxism can also be linked with various medications such as recreational drugs and antidepressants.

Even though there’s no specific cure for bruxism, it’s vital to control the teeth grinding disorder’s effects and prevent further damage.

Bruxism symptoms include a painful jaw, teeth sensitivity, muscle tenderness, insomnia, headache, eating disorder, earache, depression, anxiety, and stress. Other preventive measures that may help relieve pain include drinking plenty of water, getting enough rest, and massaging the neck, shoulders, and face muscles. Physical therapy exercises can also help ease muscles and joints.

Protecting Your Teeth

Bruxism is a common problem that affects people of all ages. The most common cause of teeth grinding in adults is stress, but sufferers should explore other possibilities. Some people grind due to prescription medications, diet, lack of exercise, or caffeine or alcohol overconsumption. Others, including children, suffer from bruxism for no apparent cause or reason. Research suggests sleep disorders may aggravate bruxism, so you may want to discuss this with your physician.

Although mild bruxism presents minimal risk for most people, chronic bruxism may cause other health problems such as hearing loss, tension headaches, and dental issues. Since bruxism is usually a symptom of an underlying health problem, there’s no specific medication to cure bruxism. Most dentists recommend night guards to protect the teeth and jaw from damage. For anyone who’s suffering from the disorder, a custom night guard serves a vital role.

How to Save on Dental Night Guard Cost

How do you find the best dental night guards for less and discover the best type for you?

Learn how you can save hundreds of dollars in dental night guard costs by purchasing personalized appliances direct from the comfort of your own home.

To minimize the damage caused by clenching and grinding of teeth at night, most people rely on dental night guards to avoid premature tooth wear. If you’re buying a night guard for the first time, remember to choose one that’s comfortable and extremely durable. If you have sensitive teeth and/or gums, you’re a light sleeper, or this is your first time wearing a night guard, comfort should be your top concern. When looking for the best night guard, choose EVA plastic or acrylic material for professional results.

When buying night guards, choose the type your dentist recommends

A dentist can determine the degree of damage and recommend which night guard type is best for you. Most dentists charge a fee on top of the night guard price, so expect that your consultation fee and the appliance will be an investment.

However, most night guards from dentists are made-to-order with a perfect fit. To save money on made-to-order night guards, you can simply buy direct from the lab. Often, your dentist sends the mold of your teeth to a lab for construction.

Buying straight from the lab will cost you less, and you don’t need to leave your home! Search for the best manufacturers on-line and compare prices. Once you’ve found one, you can simply place your order online, and the lab will send you a molding kit and simple instructions. You then send this back to the lab, and they craft a custom-fit night guard in less than two weeks. This option will save you a lot of money and time in dental visits!

I’m grinding my teeth and need a night guard now!

One-size fits all mouth guards

If you’re in a hurry and need a short term solution as soon as possible, the next available option is a ready-made night guard. Ready-made night guards are available in different styles and brands. Many of these standard appliances look like the mouth guards that athletes use for contact sports such as martial arts and boxing. That design may not offer an option that’s comfortable for sound sleep.

While most custom-made night guards from dentists will cost you between $350 – $950, ready-made night guards purchased over-the-counter or on the internet will cost you around $15 to $40 each. Custom-made night guards purchased directly from labs will cost between $100 – $220 per piece. Mouth guard kits from online vendors that ship directly from labs for you will help you save hundreds of dollars on your dental night guard. This choice makes sense if you prefer a custom-made night guard over the boil-and-bite variety for ultimate fit and comfort.

If you’re looking to save money and you don’t worry much about not having a custom-fit night guard for your teeth, a ready-made night guard might be a viable option for you. Popular  brands are: DenTek Comfort Fit Dental Guard Kit (around $26 per piece), SmartGuard Elite ($23 per piece) and Doctor’s Night Guard ($15 per piece).

Solution to teeth grinding

When choosing the best night guard, always make sure that you make comfort and durability your top priority. You don’t always need to spend a lot in order to protect your teeth and gums from the damage caused by bruxism.

You can either buy direct or through different shopping sites. A simple Google search will lead you to hundreds of on-line stores where you can get night guards for a fraction of the price your dentist provides.


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

Verified By

Dr. Greg Grillo

University of Washington School of Dentistry

Dr. Greg Grillo Born and raised in the Okanogan Valley, Dr. Greg enjoys being part of this unique corner of the world. He spent 8 years at the University of Washington, receiving a bachelors degree with Honors before attending dental school on the same campus. Selected for a Health Profession's Scholarship by the U.S. Navy, Dr. Greg then served in the USN as a dental officer for 4 years. He received advanced training in multiple specialty areas of dentistry while also treating families of squadron military members overseas. After tours of duty in South Carolina and Japan, and over 300 hours of additional formal education beyond dental school, he returned home in 1999 to join his father, Dr. Jerry Grillo. He especially enjoys caring for growing families in his practice, and incorporating technologies that enhance the patient experience while taking numerous continuing education courses on all aspects of dentistry. He and his wife, Lisa, have 3 children and are involved in a variety of community activities in the Omak area. Outside the office, he can be found snow skiing, hiking, playing tennis, or just enjoying the outdoors.