Almost as common as snoring, teeth grinding while sleeping — also known as bruxism — can damage teeth and cause pain in the jaw and head. It is often caused by stress, but it can also be the result of abnormal growth of teeth or alignment issues within the mouth and jaw. The first step in stopping teeth grinding while sleeping is to visit your dentist so he or she can determine the cause of the grinding. From there, the dentist may prescribe a mouth guard to train the jaw to stop clenching, or he or she may refer you to a psychiatrist or other mental health professional to help relieve the stress that is causing the grinding.
In many cases, teeth grinding while sleeping can be stopped by using a mouth guard at night. A dentist can make a mold of your teeth to create a mouth guard for use during the night; this mouth guard will keep teeth from grinding against each other, but it will also train the jaw to rest in a different position. Since teeth grinding while sleeping can lead to permanent injury to the teeth and gums, a mouth guard is necessary to prevent cracked teeth, worn enamel, and jaw pain. A specially designed mouth guard from your dentist may be expensive, however, as they are usually not covered by insurance. If you fit this category, then consider purchasing an athletic mouth guard available at most sporting goods stores. While not as durable or low-profile as the versions used by dentists, it is an inexpensive alternative that can accomplish the same goal.
Sometimes the only way to stop teeth grinding while sleeping is to address the cause, which is very often high levels of stress in one's life. Elevated stress levels can disrupt your normal sleeping patterns, and while the brain is thinking about stressful events that happened during the day, the jaw tends to clamp down, leading to teeth grinding while sleeping. Doctors may recommend you visit a mental health professional who can help you work through some of the stresses of daily life, thereby allowing your mind to relax enough at night that bruxism will not occur. Anger, fear, anxiety, or even anticipation of a positive event to come can all lead to bruxism.
In children, abnormal growth of the teeth and jaws can lead to bruxism. The teeth may not align correctly, leading the child to bite down in such a way that the teeth grind against each other. This is usually not too serious of an issue, as children will outgrow their teeth as they age. If the problem persists after adult teeth begin to grow, a visit to a dentist is in order.