When someone snores, they're often the last one to know. After all, they're asleep when it happens, so they don't hear a thing. Something similar happens with teeth grinding. If you suffer from sleep bruxism, you don't hear the teeth grinding sounds because you're sleeping while they occur. In fact, you may not even be aware that you clench or grind your teeth until you begin to feel some of the painful symptoms of teeth grinding. What does teeth grinding sound like? How would you know if you grind your teeth at night?
What Does Teeth Grinding Sound Like?
Bruxism is an unconscious habit that involves teeth grinding,and jaw clenching. If you're experiencing sleep bruxism, you won't hear anything, but chances are your partner or family member might complain about some strange or disturbing noises. The most common sound associated with teeth grinding is squeaking. Additionally, grinding noises include crunching, chewing, and scraping. If you or your partner hears popping or clicking noises, it most likely means your bruxism has aggravated the joints of your jaw and triggered a condition called temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJ disorder.
How to Tell If You Grind Your Teeth
Bruxism has many potential triggers: stress, sleep disorders such as snoring or sleep apnea, certain medications such as antidepressants, alcohol and caffeine consumption, and more. People with sleep bruxism are often unaware that they grind their teeth until significant problems develop, so having someone alert you to the teeth grinding sounds that they're hearing can actually be incredibly helpful. After all, teeth grinding can damage your smile if it is left untreated. Being alerted to these grinding sounds gives you a chance to seek treatment early, before the damage progresses.
If you don’t have a partner to alert you to your teeth grinding habits, you may want to identify if you display any of the common signs of bruxism. Mayo Clinic suggests seeking treatment from a dentist if you experience these signs and symptoms of teeth grinding:
- Teeth grinding, gnashing, or clenching, which may be audible
- Teeth that are flattened, chipped, or loose
- Worn tooth enamel
- Increased tooth sensitivity or pain
- Teeth with worn enamel and exposed dentin
- Tired, tight, or locked jaw muscles/jaw joint (overall jaw pain)
- Earache, dull headache/tension-type headache, or facial pain
- Sleep disruption or waking up feeling fatigued
Bruxism and Your Oral Health
As the Cleveland Clinic explains, bruxism can be very detrimental to your oral health. The jaw muscles are quite strong, so they can generate a lot of pressure. Therefore, repetitive grinding and clenching can do a lot of damage. If your bruxing goes unchecked, you might find yourself dealing with teeth that are damaged, loose, or lost. Bruxism may also cause problems with the joints and muscles of your jaw and neck, which can set the stage for significant pain. Additionally, heavy bruxing can develop into TMJ disorder. To make matters worse, the change to your teeth can also cause alterations in your facial shape and profile that make you look older.
Solutions for Bruxism
How is bruxism treated? Johns Hopkins Medicine offers a few possibilities:
- Night guards: Dental devices have all kinds of names: night guard, mouth guard, oral splint, and more. These devices are fitted to the upper or lower teeth, and form a barrier between them to protect the teeth and jaw. When worn, they absorb the force of teeth grinding and clenching and help to prevent dental damage as well as soreness in the jaw muscles.
- Medicine: Some medications have been known to influence bruxism, so your doctor may change your medications if they believe the medicines have triggered your condition. Alternately, bruxers may be prescribed muscle relaxants to ease pain and tension in the jaw.
- Behavior changes: Behavior changes can involve exercises which help to alter the habits which cause bruxism. This involves being taught how to position the teeth, tongue, and lips to relieve discomfort. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been used to treat TMD and a study published in 2013 suggests it is useful in the treatment of bruxism as well. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to reduce the effects of stress and anxiety and improve muscle relaxation.
Other solutions include relaxation techniques because bruxism is often brought on by stress and anxiety. These include physical therapy, essential oils, and yoga. Some bruxers have also found success in getting botox injections to the jaw because it forces the overactive muscles to relax. If you are unsure of the right solution for you, visit your dentist, as they will be able to examine your teeth and recommend the best treatment options.
Bruxism in Children
Bruxism is actually very common among children. According to the Sleep Foundation, studies suggest that roughly 8% of adults grind their teeth at night, 15% of adolescents do so, and up to 50% of children may engage in teeth grinding while they're sleeping.
While teeth grinding may be more prevalent in young kids, it's generally not a cause for concern in this age group. As the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia explains, many young children grind their teeth as a way to soothe themselves or cope with tooth misalignments during the teething stages. These children will often outgrow the habitual teeth grinding by age 6, as their baby teeth are lost and replaced with their permanent teeth.
However, there are other potential bruxism triggers that children may not outgrow, according to KidsHealth. Stress, medical conditions like hyperactivity or cerebral palsy, and certain medications have all been linked to bruxism in children. Children dealing with these types of triggers may continue to battle teeth grinding as they grow older.
If you hear the squeaking, crunching, or scraping sounds that are associated with bruxism, talk to your son or daughter’s dentist about your concerns at their next visit. They can check for signs of damage on the teeth. If the bruxism is mild, a “wait-and-see” approach may be all that's necessary. If the bruxism is persistent or damaging, your child's dentist may recommend a custom-fit night guard to protect their teeth.
Discovering that you make squeaking noises with your teeth in your sleep can be a bit alarming. However, being introduced to the teeth grinding soundtrack can also be a blessing in disguise. It provides an early warning sign that allows you to take immediate action to safeguard your oral health. In contrast, many people who brux won't discover that they have an issue until enough damage is done to cause painful problems. If you have a sore jaw, tooth wear, or any of the other above mentioned side effects, bruxism may be the culprit. Seek out treatment sooner rather than later!
Could a custom-fit night guard help protect the well-being of your smile? At Pro Teeth Guard, you can order a custom-fit mouthguard for an affordable price. Our night guards are crafted in a professional dental lab, and every night guard is guaranteed to fit comfortably with our 110% money-back guarantee.
- Cleveland Clinic Writers. (2021). Bruxism: Teeth Grinding, Night Guard, Jaw Clenching, Treatment. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10955-teeth-grinding-bruxism.
- Hirsch, K. H. (Ed.). (2015, July). Bruxism (Teeth Grinding or Clenching) (for Parents). KidsHealth. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/bruxism.html.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine Writing Staff. (n.d.). Bruxism. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/bruxism.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Bruxism (teeth grinding). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bruxism/symptoms-causes/syc-20356095.
- Orthlieb, Jean-Daniel, et al. (2013). Propositions for a Cognitive Behavioral Approach to Bruxism Management. International Journal of Stomatology & Occlusion Medicine. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Orthlieb-Jd/publication/257787936_Propositions_for_a_cognitive_behavioral_approach_to_bruxism_management/links/0deec535d0877571ab000000/Propositions-for-a-cognitive-behavioral-approach-to-bruxism-management.pdf
- Suni, E. (2020, August 21). Bruxism & Sleep - Sleep Disorders. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bruxism.
- The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Writing Staff. (2014, May 5). Teeth Grinding in Children. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. https://www.chop.edu/news/teeth-grinding-children.