Posted in Clenching/ Grinding/ Sore jaw joints, Grinding

Signs You Are Clenching Or Grinding Your Teeth In Your Sleep

Author: Dr Rita Trakhtman, cosmetic dentist, East St Kilda

If you wake up with sore jaw joints, sore muscles around the face,  your teeth are chipping or your fillings are breaking, then you’re either clenching or grinding in your sleep.

Nocturnal grinding is usually related to stress and poor quality of sleep. If you remember your dreams, there is a likely chance you grind your teeth as people who remember their dreams is related to REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, a form of poor quality of sleep.

Ask your partner if they ever hear you grinding in your sleep. If they’re a light sleeper then they will say yes. If they’re a heavy sleeper then they won’t know because they’re sleeping through the sounds.

The problem with this habit is that you’re asleep when you do it. It’s a problem on 2 levels:

  1. You become distrusting towards the dentist because you aren’t aware that you do it, despite the obvious signs to your dentist.
  2. Even if you do believe the dentist, you can’t stop the habit because you’re not in control of what you do when you’re asleep.


There is no way of stopping you from grinding or clenching in your sleep. What I can it recommend something to put in your mouth that is just thick enough to separate the top and bottom teeth from touching each other and thin enough to be comfortable for you to wear at night. This is called a night time mouthguard, or if you want a fancier name, an occlusal splint.

Worn for the top teeth, nothing for the bottom teeth.

It’s a piece of plastic that follows the shape of your top teeth and that fits perfectly to your bite. The point is that your chewing away at the plastic rather than your precious teeth. Once you grind away your teeth, you cannot grow that back. Your teeth are more valuable than the most expensive jewellery.

A nighttime mouthguard may not always help with the sore jaw joints, because you’re still doing the habit of grinding or clenching. I am not going to promise something I cannot keep. There is a chance it can though. That is not its purpose. Its purpose is to protect your precious teeth.

Usually the occlusal splint will last about 2 years before you fully grind it down.
The thicker it is the less comfortable it is but longer it will last. It’s a fine balance between comfort and duration.
It’s like wearing your shoes to bed. It takes 2 weeks to get used to. You will feel frustrated the first 2 weeks and you’ll find yourself taking the splint out in the middle of the night but it’s really rewarding once you’re used to it. You just have to keep being persist and wear it every night. You’ll get so used to it that you won’t be able to go to sleep without it.



What else can you do for the sore jaw joint and sore muscles?

  • Wrap your jaw with a moist warm towel for 20 mins. It must be moist.
  • Don’t chew gum
  • Avoid hard and crunchy foods where you need to work your muscles and jaw
  • Don’t sleep on your jaw, so don’t lay your head on your side
  • Get head and face massages. If it’s really bad you can get myotherapy (muscle therapy – they massage your muscles on a weekly basis)
  • You can also rub some Voltarin gel
Moist warm towel


Author: Dr Rita Trakhtman, cosmetic dentist, East St Kilda



An online healthy lifestyle blog from a dental point of view - Advice on how to live a healthy lifeSMILE :)

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