Grinding your teeth is one of those pesky habits that’s difficult to stop doing unless you’re reminded to relax your jaw muscle. (That’s a friendly reminder to unclench your jaw right now!) Although you can be unintentionally doing it all day, sometimes it’s hard to know — so learning how to tell if you grind your teeth at night can help you figure out the culprit behind that jaw pain.
Grinding your teeth — also known as bruxism — is actually very common, and it’s been exacerbated by the pandemic (it is partially brought on by stress, after all). “Bruxism is a parafunctional habit, which means it’s something you do with your teeth besides the intended nature of chewing,” cosmetic dentist Dr. Sophya Morghem, D.M.D., tells Bustle. It’s generally damaging to your teeth (especially when done long term) and can lead to unpleasant consequences (like tightness or headaches).
It’s not that you knowingly do it: According to Los Altos-based dentist Dr. Joseph Field, D.D.S., grinding your teeth isn’t typically a conscious act. And sometimes sleep conditions can lead to bruxism. “A reason we see bruxism, especially at nighttime, is [because of] undiagnosed sleeping disorders like sleep apnea,” Field says. In this case, he explains you’re not breathing properly at night, which causes your lower jaw to push forward to try and open your airway up. You can also be grinding your teeth during workouts or while waiting in rush hour traffic, says Field.
Of course, since you’re asleep, it’s tricky to tell if you’re grinding your teeth at night. But it’ll often manifest in certain ways — here, experts share the tell-tale signs you’re grinding your teeth while you sleep.