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If you notice that you’re waking up with a tight jaw, sore face, or dull headache, there might be a simple explanation: bruxism. Also known as tooth grinding or clenching, bruxism is when you move your teeth back and forth during sleep. Over time, it can cause tooth sensitivity and even damage or crack your teeth. If you suspect that you might be doing it, try to figure out why it’s happening so you can stop it. There are a handful of reasons why you might be grinding your teeth, but these top three causes are—by far—the most common.

What’s behind all that nighttime gnashing

  1. Teeth Problems: Perhaps your teeth don’t line up correctly or you have teeth that are missing or crooked. The misalignment, which is also known as occlusion, means that the teeth don’t meet when the jaw opens and closes. This could be due to an issue with the temporomandibular joint or the muscles around the jaw. For example, if those facial muscles spasm during sleep, you could start grinding your teeth. To know if this is the cause of your tooth grinding, you’ll need to visit a dentist who can take X-rays and give you a proper diagnosis.
  2. Anxiety and Stress: When you are worrying excessively, you are likelier to clench your jaw and work it back and forth throughout the night, wearing your teeth down. Problems at work, in relationships, or due to finances don’t just go away because it’s nighttime. The more stress that you feel, the worse off your nights will be. And the more you try to ignore the stress, the likelier you are to be a heavy tooth grinder. So try these remedies.
  3. Other Medical Conditions: Certain medications, like some antidepressants, or disorders like Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, can cause bruxism. Even having too much stomach acid reflux or suffering from sleep apnea can lead to nighttime grinding.