Subconscious teeth grinding during sleep

Subconscious teeth grinding during sleep, also called sleep bruxism, can occur at any stage of life. In most cases, those affected do not notice. The chewing muscle tenses up and the teeth exert great pressure and rub against each other. If teeth grinding is not detected and treated at an early stage, it can have serious consequences.

Early detection of teeth grinding

People who grind their teeth at night experience pain in their mouth, jaw and face in the morning. The facial and chewing muscles feel tense and hardened. They also report a squeaking noise as soon as the teeth rub against each other, as well as a cracking sound in the jaw.

The occlusal surfaces appear smooth, the edges of the teeth are often already grounded down and the teeth are more sensitive to pain. You can also see teeth marks on the tongue and cheek.

If these symptoms apply to you, you should visit a dentist or orthodontist as soon as possible and have your teeth examined .

Teeth grinding in children

It is common for children to grind their teeth both during the day and at night. This usually happens after their molars have grown out, and they are exploring their teeth with the help of rubbing motions or to rub off awkwardly positioned milk teeth. This is usually harmless and will subside over the years. However, if the child also grinds his or her permanent teeth, a dentist or orthodontist should be consulted. The affected children are often advised to undergo aligner treatment to prevent headaches, misaligned teeth or wear in the tooth enamel. Psychological reasons can also be a cause of teeth grinding, but must less common. In order to address the problem, therapy is often recommended.

Possible causes of subconscious teeth grinding

The most common cause of teeth grinding is high level of psychological stress and anxiety. Rubbing the teeth together and applying pressure subconsciously serves as a kind of stress relief.

Other causes of teeth grinding during sleep may include:

  • Excessive consumption of alcohol, nicotine, caffeine

  • Taking certain medications

  • Teeth misalignments and gaps between teeth 

  • Poorly fitting crowns, fillings, dental bridges or implants 

  • Bad posture

What are the consequences of grinding teeth at night?

Grinding your teeth can have unpleasant consequences. The jaw is connected to the ear, back and neck by nerves and muscles. This means that jaw tension has a negative effect on other parts of the body.

The enamel and the occlusal surfaces of the teeth are also affected.


Teeth grinding during the night causes the chewing muscles to tense up, which sometimes results in ear pain, hearing ringing in the ears or tinnitus when the person wakes up.

Back, neck and headaches 

One of the most common consequences is tension in the back, shoulder, neck and throat. The tense chewing muscles are connected to the muscles in the head and neck area, which are also tense or overstretched. As a result, those affected experience back, neck and headaches. This in turn causes the entire body to tense up and could result in bad posture.

Tooth wear and toothache

Teeth grinding leads to tooth abrasion, where both the surfaces of the teeth and the enamel are worn away.

The teeth are worn down to the point where they can be shortened by several millimetres. The occlusal surfaces are smoothed so that it is no longer possible to properly grasp and grind food.

As the enamel is also worn away, the tooth and nerves are exposed and the tooth and gums become increasingly sensitive.

Treatment options

Since teeth grinding while sleeping is usually stress-related, it is sometimes enough for those affected to relax through physiotherapy or activities such as going for a walk.

If teeth grinding is a result of poorly fitting crowns, fillings, bridges or dentures, this can be remedied by replacing and grinding down the denture or filling.

Mouth guard

With the help of a mouth guard, the cause of teeth grinding will not be eliminated, but it will prevent grinding while you sleep. Further damage to the teeth is prevented and the jaw is relieved.

The duration of the painless treatment depends on how severely you grind your teeth and lasts only a few weeks or a few months.

The costs for a mouth guard can run up to £500. In general, health insurance will cover the costs of materials and production of the guard on an annual basis.

DR SMILE partner practices near you

Book an appointment at a DR SMILE partner practice near you

No Logo
Our alignersarrow
  • Contact & Support
  • FAQ
  • For Dentists and Orthodontists
  • [email protected]
  • Careers
Follow us
  • social icon
  • social icon

©2023 DR SMILE