Skip Navigation

Teeth Insights relies on readers. We may earn commissions when you purchase through our links. Check Affiliate Disclosure

What Causes Teeth Grinding During Sleep?

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is a common dental condition that affects many individuals during sleep. It involves the involuntary grinding or clenching of teeth, often resulting in various dental problems and discomfort. 

Understanding the causes of teeth grinding during sleep is essential in effectively managing this condition. In this article, we will explore the factors that contribute to teeth grinding and provide valuable insights into its prevention and treatment.

Teeth grinding during sleep can be attributed to several factors, both physical and psychological. Let’s delve into each of these causes and gain a deeper understanding.

Physical Causes of Teeth Grinding During Sleep

1. Dental Misalignment: 

One of the leading physical causes of teeth grinding is dental misalignment, also known as malocclusion. When the upper and lower teeth do not align properly, it can lead to excessive grinding and clenching during sleep.

2. Sleep Disorders: 

Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and snoring have been closely associated with teeth grinding. These conditions disrupt the normal sleep pattern, leading to an increased risk of bruxism.

3. Abnormal Bite: 

An abnormal bite, known as an occlusal discrepancy, can trigger teeth grinding during sleep. When the upper and lower teeth do not fit together correctly, the subconscious effort to find a comfortable position can result in grinding.

Psychological Causes of Teeth Grinding During Sleep

1. Stress and Anxiety: 

Psychological factors play a significant role in teeth grinding during sleep. Stress, anxiety, and emotional tension can manifest as bruxism, as the body tries to release the built-up tension through teeth grinding.

2. Emotional Tension, Anger, or Frustration

Emotions, especially if they’re repressed, can manifest physically, leading to habits like teeth grinding.

3. Personality Types

Certain aggressive, competitive, or hyperactive personality types are more prone to bruxism.

Medications and Substances 

Some substances and medications increase the risk of grinding:

1. Antidepressants

Certain medications, particularly specific types of antidepressants, have been linked to bruxism.

2. Psychoactive Substances

Drugs that affect dopamine production in the brain can increase the risk of grinding.

3. Smoking, Alcohol, and Caffeine Consumption

These substances, especially when consumed in large amounts, can exacerbate teeth grinding during sleep.

Neurological and Genetic Factors of Teeth Grinding During Sleep

Bruxism can also have genetic and neurological causes:

1.  Parkinson’s Disease and Huntington’s Disease

These neurological conditions can cause involuntary muscle movements, including grinding of teeth.

2. Genetic Predisposition

If family members grind their teeth, there’s a higher likelihood of others in the family developing the habit.

Lifestyle Factors

Certain lifestyle habits and choices can enhance the risk of bruxism:

1. Alcohol Consumption

Excessive alcohol consumption is linked to increased teeth grinding.

2.  Caffeine Intake

High caffeine intake, especially before bedtime, can trigger bruxism.

3. Tobacco Use

Regular smoking or chewing tobacco can exacerbate teeth grinding.

4. Recreational Drug Use

Certain drugs, especially stimulants, can lead to increased grinding.

What are the Potential Complications of Unaddressed Bruxism

Bruxism, commonly known as teeth grinding, might seem harmless or merely annoying to some, but if left unaddressed, it can lead to several complications. Here are the potential problems associated with chronic, untreated bruxism:

1. Tooth Wear and Dental Damage:

Enamel Erosion: Constant grinding wears down the protective outer layer of the tooth, making teeth more vulnerable to cavities and decay.

Fractures and Chipping: The excessive pressure from grinding can cause teeth to chip, crack, or even break.

Tooth Sensitivity: As enamel erodes, the inner layers of the tooth become exposed, leading to heightened sensitivity to hot, cold, sweet, or sour foods and drinks.

2. Jaw Disorders:

Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD or TMJ): Chronic grinding can strain the temporomandibular joint, leading to pain, popping sounds, and limited mobility in the jaw.

Muscle Tenderness: Overactive jaw muscles can become sore and tender, causing discomfort while talking or eating.

3. Headaches and Migraines:

Bruxism often leads to tension headaches due to the constant strain on the muscles in the face and neck.

In some cases, the tension can escalate to migraines, causing severe pain, light sensitivity, and even nausea.

4. Sleep Disturbances:

For the Individual: Frequent waking due to the grinding noise or jaw discomfort can disrupt one’s sleep cycle, leading to fatigue and irritability.

For the Partner: The sound of grinding can disturb a sleeping partner, affecting their sleep quality as well.

5. Facial Pain and Fatigue:

The muscles of the face can become fatigued and sore from the constant movement, leading to generalized facial pain.

Some individuals might experience earaches or pain radiating down the neck.

6. Gum Recession and Damage:

The pressure from grinding can cause the gums to recede, exposing more of the tooth and potentially leading to gum disease or tooth loss.


Teeth grinding during sleep can be a distressing condition that affects both dental health and overall well-being. By understanding the causes of teeth grinding, both physical and psychological, individuals can take proactive steps to manage and prevent this condition. Whether it involves seeking dental interventions, adopting stress management techniques, or making lifestyle changes, addressing the root causes of teeth grinding can lead to improved oral health and more restful sleep.