Sleep Apnea: The Real Reason You Grind Your Teeth?

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If you grind your teeth at night, you know the pain and damage it can cause to your teeth, gums, and jaw. But you probably don’t know that your grinding could be related to sleep apnea.

Do you still struggle with grinding after trying these techniques?

  • Wearing a night guard
  • Practicing stress reduction
  • Eliminating alcohol and caffeine

If so, I’ve got some great news:

Treating sleep apnea or other sleep disorders might improve—or even eliminate—your grinding issues.

Sound hard to believe?

A 2014 study examining the relationship between sleep apnea and bruxism (the medical term for grinding) compared two groups of participants. One group consisted of patients with sleep apnea, while the control group was comprised of healthy adults with no sleep breathing issues.

Results showed that instances of grinding was higher in the sleep apnea group than the control group. Additionally, the overall risk of grinding was higher in those with sleep apnea. (1)

If you grind your teeth and haven’t been able to fix it, sleep apnea might be the culprit.

In this article, I will further explain:

  • The link between sleep apnea and bruxism
  • The consequences of sleep apnea with grinding
  • Those who are most at risk for sleep apnea-related grinding
  • What you can do to ensure a good night’s sleep and improve sleep apnea symptoms
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Why is a dentist talking about sleep apnea?

As you might have guessed, sleep quality and dental health are closely related. But the reason I’m talking about it is much more personal: It all started when my wife was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.

That experience led me to write my book, The 8-Hour Sleep Paradox. In it, I give an in-depth explanation of how poor sleep can lead to a host of health conditions, including weight gain, brain fog, and even cavities.

I practice functional dentistry, which means that I take a proactive approach to oral and dental health.

My job isn’t just to fill cavities and do twice-yearly cleanings. As a functional dentist, I address diet and other lifestyle factors to help prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and other issues.

As it turns out, sleep quality has a big impact on the health of your mouth. For one, mouth breathing can cause dry mouth, which leads to an imbalanced oral microbiome.

And, as we’ve established, obstructed breathing in sleep apnea can cause grinding. (It also leads to other consequences, which I outline below.)

The term given to this area of specialty within functional dentistry is “dental sleep medicine.”

Since 1991, the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) has educated dentists on the importance of treating sleep apnea, snoring, and other sleep-disordered breathing conditions.

Treating these issues is important for maintaining oral and dental health. Because what happens in the mouth happens in the body, treating sleep conditions can also decrease the risk of other diseases, including high blood pressure, stroke, and depression.

First, let’s take a look a closer look at how bruxism and sleep apnea are related.

How Sleep Apnea Might Cause Grinding

The official apnea definition is “temporary cessation of breathing, especially during sleep.”

To understand exactly how sleep disorders like sleep apnea may cause grinding, you need full context for how your body changes when you sleep.

During the night, the brain cycles through lighter and deeper stages of sleep. The deeper you sleep, the more relaxed the muscles of your body are.

And for people struggling with sleep apnea symptoms, the soft tissues of the mouth and tongue become so relaxed that they block the airway, making breathing difficult. This can lead to an interruption of breathing entirely for several seconds at a time.

Researchers studied brain scans of people with partial blockage of their airways during sleep. They found grinding was associated with the reopened airway and likely was a factor in participants to being able to breathe again.

That means that, by grinding their teeth, patients were able to reopen their airway.

Once the participants were given something to keep their airway open all night long, the grinding stopped. These include things like a sleep apnea machine, such as a CPAP or dental appliance that holds the jaw in place so the tongue and jaw can’t block the airway.

The “apneic” events, which refer to the loss of breathing during sleep, stopped as well.

Essentially, some cases of grinding may be caused by the body’s natural reflex to force the airway open when breathing is hampered.

But looking for signs of grinding isn’t just for people who have a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea. Grinding can be an early indicator that your sleep breathing is being compromised, even if your sleep apnea isn’t considered “severe.”

In fact, there are three different types of sleep apnea, each with varying degrees of severity:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): This is the type of sleep apnea we’ve been discussing so far, and it’s the most common type. Obstructive sleep apnea is when the throat relaxes to a point that it blocks the airways. It ranges from mild, which may cause grinding or light snoring, to more severe cases that causes total breathing cessation many times throughout the night.
  • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): This type of sleep apnea occurs when the brain improperly sending signals to the muscles in your body that control breathing, telling them to stop working. It occurs frequently in people who are sick for other reasons but is significantly less common than obstructive sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is likely accountable for less than 20% of all sleep apnea cases. (2)
  • Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome (CSAS): This is a combination of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

Another disorder that doesn’t meet the criteria for obstructive sleep apnea is upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS). It’s considered less severe than OSA, but UARS does cause short periods of wakefulness from obstructed breathing that you probably won’t notice.

People with serious sleep apnea easily get the attention and treatment of a doctor. But people with milder forms of sleep-disordered breathing are often not be treated with the same urgency.

I believe that’s a mistake.

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. What’s worse, 80% of cases of moderate to severe sleep apnea are undiagnosed.

Grinding might be the canary in the coal mine when it comes to sleep-disordered breathing.

When I see signs of grinding, my first instinct says that they should be examined for sleep apnea symptoms.

Consequences of Sleep Apnea + Bruxism

Grinding saves our lives—forcing us to breathe again even in the stage of sleep where we’re paralyzed. But the long-term effects of bruxism as your only protection from sleep apnea are very serious.

Tensing up the muscles to grind bounces the body out of deep sleep. That happens to be the most restorative and beneficial stage of sleep.

It’s during deep sleep that human growth hormone (HGH) is released, which helps to build muscle mass and regulate body fat.

The deep stages of sleep and REM sleep are responsible for helping with:

  • Consolidation and improvement of memory (3)
  • Weight management (4)
  • Athletic performance (5)
  • Preventing heart disease (6)
  • Reducing risk of type 2 diabetes (7)
  • Limiting chance for depression (8)
  • Immune function (9)
  • Chronic inflammation (10)

A lot of people mistakenly think that being asleep for eight hours means they’re getting quality sleep. But that isn’t always the case.

Quantity isn’t quality, especially when it comes to sleep.

What happens with untreated sleep apnea?

In fact, untreated sleep apnea that results in a loss of restorative sleep can contribute to:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Automobile accidents
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Weight gain

When it comes to your teeth, grinding caused by sleep apnea can cause many problems.

Years of grinding and clenching caused by sleep apnea can:

  • Damage your teeth
  • Cause tooth decay and tooth sensitivity
  • Contribute to premature aging and yellowing
  • Lead to permanent jaw pain and damage to the jaw joint

Who’s at risk for sleep apnea?

Old, overweight, and male: This is what we’re trained to look for in medical and dental school to diagnose sleep apnea.

But these qualifiers are outdated, according to the latest science. People who don’t fit this description are, sadly, falling through the cracks and going diagnosed.

If any of the below describes you, and you are grinding your teeth, you may be experiencing some form of sleep-disordered breathing.

  • Women. Health professionals have long recognized the role of weight in sleep apnea. Yet it’s become clear that women, regardless of size, are at risk for sleep-disordered breathing. Both pregnancy and polycystic ovarian syndrome increase the risk of sleep apnea, and the weight gain and hormone changes that accompany menopause can also trigger the condition. (11, 12)
  • Children with ADHD and other learning disabilities. Hyperactivity, forgetfulness, moodiness, and trouble focusing can all be signs that a child isn’t getting quality sleep. Over 50% of children with sleep apnea may already have been misdiagnosed with ADHD. (13)
  • People with a long neck. A long, thin neck can mean you’ve inherited a narrow airway, which provides less room for air to flow when your throat muscles relax as you sleep. (14)
  • People who did not breastfeed as infants. Bottle feeding, sippy cups, and even how long a child breastfeeds can affect how our mouths, teeth, jaws, and airways develop as we grow. Bottle feeding, in particular, creates a high palate and narrow arch in the mouth, which are risk factors for sleep apnea. (15)
  • People with anxiety and depression. A lack of quality sleep can have severe effects on mood stabilization. One study found that 48% of people with obstructive sleep apnea suffered from depression. People suffering from anxiety and depression may be more acutely suffering from a lack of deep sleep. (16, 17)
  • Anyone who grinds their teeth at night. As discussed, grinding is the body’s way of opening the airway when it’s blocked. If you’re grinding your teeth, you could have a form of sleep apnea. (1)
  • Those who are overweight or obese. People with obesity or overweight are at an increased risk of developing sleep apnea. (18)
  • Smokers. Those who currently smoke are much more likely to develop sleep apnea. However, after a smoker stops lighting up, that risk goes away. (19)
  • Anyone with chronic kidney disease. There’s an intrinsic link between chronic kidney disease and obstructive sleep apnea, although it’s unclear which causes the other (or whether they’re just so closely linked that both are true). (20, 21)

How to Know if You’re Grinding Your Teeth

Often, the simplest way to know if you’re grinding your teeth is to ask your dentist if they see any evidence of grinding. Some of the things they’ll be looking for:

  • Wear on your teeth
  • Teeth that are worn flat
  • Abfractions, or tooth tissue loss along the gumline (grinding contributes to receding gums)

At home, you can also consider symptoms like:

  • Sore muscles in the jaw or face
  • A friend or partner telling you they can hear or see you grinding at night
  • Increased tooth pain or sensitivity
  • TMJ pain (TMJ is a disorder of the temporomandibular joint, which connects your lower jaw to the base of your skull in two points. This joint is responsible for helping you chew, speak, and open your mouth to breathe. Pain can present as jaw joint pain, ear pain, neck pain, or even a headache.)
  • A jaw that clicks, which can also be a sign of TMJ
  • Waking up with a headache, which can also be a sign of sleep apnea

The Best Ways to Treat Sleep Apnea + Resolve Bruxism

Not treating bruxism can lead to excessive wear and tear on teeth, leading to tooth decay, periodontal tissue damage, jaw pain, and headaches. If that grinding is caused by sleep apnea, the list of chronic diseases you may be at risk for goes up exponentially.

If you have even mild sleep apnea, you should pursue some form of treatment. Here’s a list of the treatments found to be most effective at reducing sleep apnea and its related bruxism.

1. Mouth Tape

The practice of taping your mouth shut at night may sound a little crazy, but it’s actually a great way to reduce mouth breathing at night. I’ve even seen mouth taping help some people reverse UARS or mild cases of obstructive sleep apnea.

If anything, mouth tape is a great diagnostic tool for those who aren’t sure whether or not they have a sleep breathing condition like OSA. The average person might sleep with an open mouth on occasion (or even frequently), but unless there’s an underlying sleep condition, that person should be able to sleep through the night wearing mouth tape.

If you mouth tape and find you wake up with the tape off every morning for more than a week or so, it’s a sign that your nasal breathing could be obstructed.

That’s why mouth taping is my first recommendation to patients who show signs of bruxism, especially if they aren’t able or ready to get a full sleep study.

I use Somnifix Sleep Strips every night while I sleep. Theirs is the most gentle and easy-to-use mouth tape I’ve found and there’s never any residue left on my lips in the morning.

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2. Positional Therapy

It might sound oversimplified, but positional therapy to correct sleep apnea obstructions can help out a lot. If your sleep apnea is contributed to sleeping on your back, the change in gravitational force on your tongue and jaw when moving to side sleeping will make a big difference. (22)

Some devices are available to provide biofeedback therapy to gently get you back to a side sleeping position. However, the easiest ways to practice positional therapy are generally home-grown. For instance, I’ve seen patients have great success wearing a backpack for several nights or fastening a tennis ball to their back to avoid back sleeping.

3. Tongue Retention Device (TRD)

If you grind your teeth, you may have been told that you need to sleep with a night guard to protect your teeth from wear and tear. However, that’s only a stopgap measure—it doesn’t solve the real issue. That’s why I suggest using a tongue retention device instead.

In fact, wearing a mouth guard to protect your teeth from grinding may make you grind more. This is because a mouth guard repositions the jaw in such a way that the airway could get blocked more than it would be without the mouth guard.

Instead of a night guard, I prefer a tongue retention device (TRD). A TRD is a relatively inexpensive, over-the-counter oral appliance for sleep apnea that can help to reposition the tongue so that your airway is more likely to stay open while you sleep. (23)

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4. Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD)

I’ve already mentioned one type of oral appliance therapy for mild sleep apnea: the TRD. Although this product is great for some cases, more severe sleep apnea may require the use of a mandibular advancement device (often in combination with a CPAP/APAP and positional therapy).

A MAD is custom-made to fit you and must be ordered through your dentist. These devices help to position your jaw in a more forward spot so that your airway is less likely to become closed and interrupt your breathing. MAD and TRD devices have similar positive results in clinical trials. (23)

If you’re prescribed a MAD, keep in mind that it takes time to get used to these devices. Give yourself a few months to stick with it before trying a different therapy.


For cases of moderate-to-severe sleep apnea, you may be prescribed a positive airway pressure machine by your sleep specialist. While these machines can be intrusive at first, proper uses of CPAP or APAP machines can do wonders for correcting the symptoms of sleep apnea. (24)

Because of the possibility of mouth breathing when you first start using your CPAP or APAP, it’s a good idea to incorporate mouth taping as well. This will help you get the most out of your new routine.

6. Myofunctional Therapy

The use of myofunctional therapy can improve sleep apnea by quite a bit, reducing its severity up to 50 percent in  adults and 62 percent in children (according to a 2015 meta-analysis). (25)

This type of muscle exercise helps train the face, jaw, and neck muscles to rest in a way that allows for proper airway position.

A good friend of mine, myofunctional therapist Sarah Hornsby, writes more about some of her work with children and sleep apnea here and here.

7. Lifestyle Changes and Weight Management

While there are some lifestyle changes that can help improve sleep apnea, these are meant to be practiced along with other sleep apnea treatments. They aren’t going to solve the problem all alone.

These include:

  • sleeping on your side instead of on your back
  • quitting smoking
  • reducing alcohol consumption
  • managing allergies
  • losing weight

In addition, losing weight may be a way to reduce the severity of sleep apnea in overweight or obese people. (26)

8. Surgery

Some forms of surgery can alleviate airway obstruction, like tonsil/adenoid removal or the repair of a deviated septum. In these cases, the anatomy of the airway can be corrected and may be a straightforward cure for sleep apnea and the related bruxism it can cause. (26)

However, another surgery that used to be a common treatment for sleep apnea, known as UPPP (uvlopalatopharyngoplasty) is much less effective than previously thought. For that reason, it’s rarely a first line treatment for sleep apnea these days. In fact, even after this invasive, painful surgery, patients may only experience a success rate of 50% and will likely still need a CPAP or APAP machine. (27)

Although UPPP surgery is unlikely to cure sleep apnea, it may be a necessity in certain cases. Make sure you understand the risks of this surgery if it’s recommended by your sleep specialist, and go in with realistic expectations.

Unproven Sleep Apnea/Grinding Treatments

Laser therapy has long been touted as a possible solution for sleep apnea, but results don’t measure up to the hype. (28)

Stress relief techniques have also been popular, especially in the days when teeth grinding was thought to be related to stress. However, they rarely provide sufficient relief for nighttime grinding or sleep apnea (although they can help with some types of awake bruxism). (29)

What To Do If You Think You Have Sleep Apnea

The first step, if your dentist notices signs of grinding (or you have other sleep apnea symptoms), is to examine your sleep quality. You can do this through a formal sleep study (a sleep apnea test at your doctor) or a home sleep test.

This step can help confirm whether the grinding is your body’s way of opening your airways during episodes of interrupted nighttime breathing.

For all my sleep patients, I recommend SnoreLab. One screenshot tells me more about one night of their sleep than any application could just a few years ago. Plus, this app is free (although they offer premium upgrades).

There are other apps and devices that can track your sleep, but I find that getting a handle on snoring is one of the most accurate ways to test sleep at home.

A sleep study or sleep test may also determine whether you’re missing out on key health benefits that result from deep-stage sleep. Home tests are great, but in order to determine if you have sleep apnea, you’ll still need to see a specialist about a full sleep study.

Speak with your dentist and doctor in order to determine which treatments might be most effective for you. If you’re grinding as a result of sleep-disordered breathing, you might be able to get rid of the problem altogether when you resolve that underlying problem.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sleep Apnea


What are the warning signs of sleep apnea?

A: Some of the ways you can tell if yourself or a loved one may have sleep apnea are:

  • Snoring
  • Teeth grinding
  • Waking up tired
  • Mouth breathing
  • Audible cessations of breathing during sleep
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Choking or coughing throughout the night
  • Headaches
  • Nocturia, or waking up to urinate throughout the night (in deep sleep, your brain shuts down that urge)
  • Symptoms of ADHD in children
  • Daytime attention issues
  • Irritability

Can a person die from sleep apnea?

A: The interrupted breathing in sleep apnea doesn’t last long enough for suffocation.

But a long-term study of almost 11,000 patients found that those with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to die of sudden cardiac death. (30)

That risk goes up to almost two times the likelihood of death from heart attack depending on the severity of sleep apnea.


Can sleep apnea go away by itself?

A: Typically, sleep apnea must be treated in some way to be corrected. For mild cases, this can be done with methods like adjusting sleep position or using mouth tape.

But in moderate to severe sleep apnea, treatment with various sleep apnea machines or methods is probably warranted.

Final Thoughts on Sleep Apnea and Grinding

Sleep apnea used to be a disorder people thought happened to only overweight, aging men. However, the research shows that women and people of all ages often live with undiagnosed sleep apnea.

Many times, your dentist may be the first person to notice you show signs of sleep apnea. This is because s/he will see the grinding that can occur when your nighttime breathing is interrupted.

When your sleep breathing gets interrupted, your body’s instinct is to grind the teeth to restart breathing.

This evolutionary development is good for basic survival, but bad over a long period of time. Sleep apnea is associated with a decline in many long-term health markers.

Here are a few steps to take if you think you may be grinding your teeth as a result of sleep apnea or another form of sleep-disordered breathing.

  • Talk to your dentist. Your dentist can’t make a sleep apnea diagnosis—s/he will leave that to the sleep medicine MD. But s/he can screen you for teeth grinding and examine the beginning of your airway as you lie flat in the chair at your next appointment. Your dentist may also recommend a MAD or TRD to improve sleep breathing. These can work great in conjunction with a CPAP machine, or even as a single treatment, in mild cases.
  • You may also want to find a dentist in your area who practices dental sleep medicine. This directory is a great way to get started, as all dentists included are AADSM-certified.
  • Find out if you grind your teeth. The telltale signs of a grinder are flat, worn teeth, jaw clicking, or jaw pain. Ask your dentist to be sure.
  • Talk to your doctor about participating in a sleep study, or doing an at-home sleep test. This is the first step for getting an official diagnosis of sleep apnea.
  • Reconsider the night guard. Prescribing a night guard is based on outdated science and should only be used as a temporary measure to protect teeth. And even though it can protect your teeth, it may make sleep apnea worse. If you use a night guard, it should be in conjunction with treating the underlying sleep problem.
  • Read my book, The 8-Hour Sleep Paradox, which includes my 3-step program to help you breathe better at night. I’ll show you how to unlock the kind of sleep that helps you slow down the aging process, lose weight, wake up happy and refreshed, improve energy levels and concentration, and beat brain fog. (See what Dr. Mark Hyman and Gretchen Rubin had to say about the book.)

So, is the real reason you grind your teeth actually an untreated sleep condition?

I’ll leave you with this, which is what I tell all of my patients: It’s at least worth further examination, especially if you fit into one of the risk categories above.

Read Next: The Complete Guide to At-Home Sleep Tests, Plus My Favorite Way to Track Sleep

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Leave a Comment

  1. Thank you so much for this information. I have been clenching my teeth in my sleep for over 10 years, unsettled sleeping. I had a mouth guard made but it hasn’t helped – my teeth are not damaged but my jaw is always tight and clicks on one side. Can’t remember last good sleep I had, tired of taking pain killers for headaches and neck tension. I’ve just got a referral to get tested for sleep apnea, your explanation makes perfect sense so hopefully I’ll get the the bottom of this!
    Trina 🙂

    • Trina, I’m so glad to hear you’ve gotten a referral. Your neck pain might even go away after you get sleep disordered breathing treated, as the neck tenses up when we struggle to breathe at night — specifically, lifting the neck off the pillow. Thanks for taking the time to share your comments. I’m so glad that this article has helped you. Take care and thanks for reading!

      • Henrietta says:

        I’d veturne that this article has saved me more time than any other.

        • Justine Fayida says:

          Same with me.
          Thank you Mark to share with us

      • Alejandra says:

        Hi Mark,
        Can you tell me something about daytime clenching? I do it day and night and I have a filling that keeps falling from the pressure.

    • Ella Bukchin says:

      Hi Mark,
      About me:
      I have had good teeth by gens from my parents, but my bruxism is severe, that my teeth started moving and roots of some teeth exposed and teeth now are very sensitive. My dentist applied patches on exposed roots of teeth cervicals.
      Now I go through ortho treatment using invisalign that moves my teeth, BUT even with both upper and lower retainers I still grind my teeth, so edges of front teeth now look like sharp razors that cracks and chips.
      Conclusion: retainers and night guard do not save teeth from grinding!!!

      About my mom:
      She grinded her teeth at night. She got night guard on upper jaw only. She did grind her teeth against night guard.
      Then she was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. She was prescribed CPAP machine.
      She’s been using CPAP machine for few years, every night, all night long, BUT she still grinds her teeth at night as her front teeth edges get chipped and thin!!!
      Conclusion: Opening airway at night does not remove bruxism problem!!!!

      • I agree that wearing a cpap does not stop bruxing. I wear a cpap and I still brux.

    • Cheri McBryde says:

      Hi Trina,
      I am going through what you went through, I wake up with headaches, a stiff neck, and feeling tired. I know that sometimes I wake up and my teeth are clenched, and my jaw clicks too. What did you end up doing? Do you have any recommendations for me? Thank you!

  2. Thanks Mark. Very interesting. Have you got a link to the bruxism and sleep apnea research article you referenced? I would love to read more about it. Cheers

      • Anonymous says:

        I was looking for that link too. If that’s the research you were talking about, then I don’t understand how you came up with the conclusion that sleep bruxism is caused by sleep apnea.

        The article clearly states: “However, before dental practitioners assume a direct role of respiration or a cause-and-effect relation between breathing disorders and sleep bruxism, more robust evidence is required.”

        • It’s becoming clear that sleep bruxism and sleep disordered breathing often coexist. In my practice it’s a reliable marker/diagnostic justifying asking the primary to prescribe a sleep study. Of the 3% that comeback without a diagnosis for SDB, I believe a variant of SDB that is difficult to catch, like UARS, was missed in the testing. Of course there are many other things we look for as well, and when the cluster presents itself, it’s very clear when it’s time to refer. This article is simply trying to shed new light on bruxism and to empower readers so that they may ask the right questions next time they see their dentist. Listed below is a good comprehensive study on the subject.

          • Anonymous says:

            Again, in this artice as well: “The clinician has to be cautious in assuming causality just because treatment of SDB improves SB-TG in some patients. Individual differences in the era of personalized medicine prevent us from rapidly concluding on cause-and-effect relationships to be generalized to the whole population.”

            Coexistence does not prove cause-and-effect; i.e, correlation does not imply causation. Not to say there isn’t a link, and that it shouldn’t affect how a doctor provides a treatment for the patient, but this post here suggests a certainty in knowing the cause for sleep bruxism — a claim which is not supported by the linked articles.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi Mark,

    Now I understand why I never could sleep with the night gard on.
    But I don’t really see a solution for not wearing the night guard in the article.
    Personally ai think teeth grinding is stress related. At least for a big part.
    Ever heard of Body Stress Release?
    I went there and since then, at least at night I no longer grind. I know, because my teeth are no longer polished in the morning.
    I’m so grateful for that.

    • Certainly, stress is a big part of it. Stress is also a large part of interrupted sleep breathing. I find it fascinating how it’s all very interconnected. Never heard of Body Stress Release, what is it?

  4. Jan Groot says:

    Hi Mark,

    Now I understand why I never could sleep with the night gard on.
    But I don’t really see a solution for not wearing the night guard in the article.
    Personally ai think teeth grinding is stress related. At least for a big part.
    Ever heard of Body Stress Release?
    I went there and since then, at least at night I no longer grind. I know, because my teeth are no longer polished in the morning.
    I’m so grateful for that.

  5. Hi Mark,

    So how would you go about ensuring the airway is not obstructed ?

    As far as I know, I no longer grind my teeth but still have lockjaw and my 5.5yr old son often grinds his during sleep.

    I would like to find a solution for him that is as uninvasive as possible.

    Thank you

  6. Amanda P. says:

    Dr. Burhenne,
    I am a dental hygienist in Texas and bruxism has recently become my personal crusade. My five year old was diagnosed with mild to moderate sleep apnea following a sleep study after I caught him grinding. I see 8 patients a day and have to discuss grinding with almost every single one. I am aware of the correlation between bruxism and sleep apnea in children (along with misdiagnosis of ADD & ADHD) but I did not know about the link between HBP, stroke, and cancer in adults. I have been recommending night guards to patients due to TMJ damage, abfraction, mobility, sensitivity, and risk of tooth fractures. I feel terrible to know that this treatment may not be the right thing to do! I have also recommended sleep studies for many of my patients based on the severity of their bruxism. In my experience, I feel that some patients clench more than they grind (based on observations of deep abfractions, clinical attachment loss, PDL widening, and wear facets), are these patients not benefiting from night guards as well or is it only bruxers? Additionally, I’ve had several patients in recent memory tell me that they’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, use a CPAP, but still grind. What else could be causing their grinding? Thank you for the great info in this post, I really appreciate being able to inform my patients.

    Amanda P., RDH

    • I also have a sleep cpap but I still grind my teeth at night I have woke up and found myself grinding my teeth I feel so bad when I wake up that I do not want to go back to sleep my heart be racing It feel like I have been racing or something heavy is sitting on my chest. It can take hours to feel normal again and I have the headaches . What can I do with the cpap and gridding.

  7. I have had TMJ jaw tension and pain since 2012, I started to notice the symptoms while under severe stress at UCLA. I got sick and delirious then when I came to my jaw was in sharp electrifying pain. They gave me muscle relaxers and a mouthguard, and this is UCLA medical. I finally understood that they did not full know what’s going on and could only treat the pain and symptoms. Since then it gets worse and better for periods of weeks to months throughout the year. This last year i’ve done extensive research on body posture, Sleep position, Pillows recently i’ve tried Yoga and Meditation. Meditation seems to help me relax the muscles and mind instantaneously if I wake up with a serious jaw tension. I have developed very painful knots in my neck muscles and lately i’ve been waking up every 3-4 hours so this makes alot more sense and sheds new light on what could be causing the tension. I’ve never considered that I may have sleep apnea. It’s gotten so bad it was causing my right ear to close the earway + earwax and I could not hear for 3 days. I feel the inner ear bones shift around when it’s at it’s maximum tension. Does anyone have any tips for how to relieve inner ear pressure + Jaw tension? Also what is the average that people experience such smyptoms from Bruxism/Sleep Apnea?

    • Anonymous says:

      Recently, I’ve found some interesting information that connects jaw position, posture, and breathing. I’m not sure if this would be relevant to anyone else, but I found it helpful to know that my overbite might have caused me to develop a forward posture that minimizes my air way. My dentist told me that I show signs of bruxism, and I have a feeling my bad posture and/or stress is the cause.

    • Camille Maco says:

      You probably have trigger points in your shoulder and back. They will pull on the jaw and ear causing your pain, fullness, and stress.

  8. Great article Mark, I wanted to share a very interesting article on how i treated my dental grinding with a holistic appraoch

    • Hi Joe, what is our approach ??

  9. My dentist has suggested Botox injections for my jaw to help relax the muscles that I clench subconsciously throughout the day. Has anyone done this and have success? I have a mouthguard because I grind and clench through the night, but it has only made it worse, and I have practically chewed through a $400 guard in less than 6 months!

    • Anonymous says:

      I had Botox injected into my jaw and it completely relieved the pain caused by TMJ. It was a last resort. I’d tried everything and nothing worked. I also noticed the TMJ pain went away after I had a loose crown fixed.

      I don’t wake up with pain in my jaw or headaches but my dentist says I do grind my teeth. Has anyone tried Cerezen ear inserts. Their brochure says they stop TMJ pain but I want to stop the grinding/clenching.

    • I tried Botox in my masseter muscle and after four weeks have not noticed any relief. However, I have read it may take up to 6-8 weeks.

  10. Fran Puckett says:

    I don’t grind my back teeth, I grind my front teeth. And it’s during the day. Sometimes I don’t even know I’m doing it. It’s more like “chewing” my front teeth. What’s that say about me?

    • You’ve really imreesspd me with that answer!

    • I do this as well. I didn’t notice until one time when the orthodontist asked me how I broke my 2 teeth on either side of my front teeth so evenly. I managed to stop the daytime grinding but at night I still grind the front right side. I am about 1/8 of inch from nerve on the front teeth… not good – be careful!

  11. Leng De Guzman says:

    My husband is a musician by profession playing saxophone. He’s been playing wind instruments for almost 25 years now. He grinds his teeth every night, at least for the past six years we’ve been married. I’d like to understand how his air passage way could still be ‘small’ and cause him grind his teeth? Could it be because of his posture when he sleeps? Or the curvature of his neck?

    • Amanda P. RDH says:

      Dear Leng,
      From my understanding, air passages are more commonly obstructed by enlarged tonsils and adenoids and grinding is your body’s response to kick-start your breathing.

  12. Great reading .
    Thank you.
    I have severe clenching which persists during the day but is worse at night. I am snoring a lot now too. Time
    To check this out.
    Thank you !

  13. I have a CPAP and still grind my teeth. The CPAP did NOTHING to reduce grinding but the mouth guard is protecting my teeth which have been damaged. I’m sticking with the mouth guard.

    • A happy medium for you could be an ultra thin & impressively custom fit mouthguard called SOVA. It will not alter your bite very much because it’s thin ($40 online vs. I’ll fitting bulky one from stores or expensive, and often still bulky, Guard from dentist office). Very unique, durable material. I really like these for use until source of bruxism is correctly diagnosed and properly treated (protects teeth until resolved!)

  14. So grateful to have found this article. I’ve been grinding for a good part of my life. My teeth are in horrible shape and now at the age of 45, it feels like I’m about to loose what few I have left in the back. I snore loudly, my husband has recorded it as a joke. My husband states that when I grind it’s incredibly loud and it disturbs his sleep many times a night. We were both feeling pretty hopeless. I really thought it was my overbite and my body trying to correct it. During my life I’ve had ticking (one side) and lock jaw but not any longer. Mouth guards are choking and don’t work for me. Thank you so much. I’m going to the doctor. If this is the case, what a MEGA HUGE breakthrough.

  15. That’s I interesting, but I find I’ve been having the urge to grind my teeth during daytime hours when I’m not sleeping, and therefor my airway isn’t blocked.

    • Dr. Mark Burhenne says:

      Yes. That’s something different and is referred to as daytime grinding. It has a different etiology and is not caused by airway size directly.

      • It seems I started grinding my front teeth following the end of taking Adderall for my ADHD. It appears I’ve had ADHD since childhood, but was not diagnosed until I was about 52yrs old. I was put on the medication to see if it would help my focus and it did, but I figured if I’ve made it this long without it, why take it? Someone suggested my daytime teeth grinding of my front teeth in particular, may be related to the Adderall.

  16. so i have to test if i still grind with CPAP machine and then work on the airway obstruction?

    • says:

      Thanks for contributing. It’s helped me understand the issues.

  17. Thanks so much for the information, doctor.

    Can you talk a little more about day grinding? I am 40 years old, and have recently (past 2 or 3 months) noticed I am grinding my front teeth during the day.

    I never did this before, and as much as I want to stop, I find my teeth almost doing it to themselves.

    Thanks for any additional info you can provide!

    • Dr. Mark Burhenne says:

      that’s a good point. i’m always talking about nighttime bruxing. i’ll compare and contrast the two in the future. thanks for your comment!

    • I do the same day time grinding , it’s frustrating the way I want to chow on something just to grind , clench my teeth , want to smok , anything just to reward the teeth

      it make me feels angry and it’s like a cycle of grinding and angry

      What can help me please reply !?

  18. Hello Dr. Burhenne,
    I came across this post while researching bruxism after having just been told by my dentist that I’m a grinder, which is evidenced by fractures in my otherwise healthy teeth and two abfractions. Although I’m not happy about the grinding, I was interested to learn that there may be a reason I’m often waking up during the night and never feeling like I get a good night’s sleep. Not being a snorer or overweight, I just never considered sleep apnea but plan to see a sleep specialist and get tested.

    Have you heard of this laser treatment for sleep apnea, Nightlase? I see some dentists in the U.S. starting to offer it including one near me who claims to have had great success with it.

    P.S. Looking forward to reading your book..

  19. How can a fetus grind his teeth? A fetus doesn’t have teeth.

  20. Jessica Schupp says:

    I have been told by my mom all my life I grind my teeth while I sleep,well I’m 33 and I don’t sleep well as I have if which is a bladder disease n fibromyalgia n lupus so between my bladder n my muscle/joint pain I can only sleep 30min at most before I gotta get up n switch positions or go pee,so sleep is not something I get. I just went to dentist from such bad mouth/jaw pain n migrains for last 3 yrs and . I was told by dentist I’m severally grinding my teeth and I need one root canal,15cavities,4 crowns(several cracked teeth) done n periodontal disease treatment. I am wondering if my grinding did all that to my teeth cause I have always takin care of my teeth.I also have had sinus issues. I found out last yr that i have sinuse disease and had surgery on my right side of nose now my left side needs surgery. she wants give me a mouth guard after all my teeth are fixed but what do you think?

    • Jessica Schupp says:

      I ment to type I have IC (which is a uncurable bladder disease) not if

  21. Jessica Schupp says:

    I have been told by my mom all my life I grind my teeth while I sleep,well I’m 33 and I don’t sleep well as I have IC which is a uncurable bladder disease n fibromyalgia n lupus so between my bladder n my muscle/joint pain I can only sleep 30min at most before I gotta get up n switch positions or go pee,so sleep is not something I get. I just went to dentist from such bad mouth/jaw pain n migrains for last 3 yrs and . I was told by dentist I’m severally grinding my teeth and I need one root canal,15cavities,4 crowns(several cracked teeth) done n periodontal disease treatment. I am wondering if my grinding did all that to my teeth cause I have always takin care of my teeth.I also have had sinus issues. I found out last yr that i have sinuse disease and had surgery on my right side of nose now my left side needs surgery. she wants give me a mouth guard after all my teeth are fixed but what do you think?

    • My dentist talks about teeth grinding a lot. Like it’s the root of all my dental problems, except that I’ve never been a tooth grinder. I sleep like a baby and I don’t have jaw pain when I wake. The big secret about bruxism is emperor’s new clothes. Dressed up with a $400 custom made night guard set; warning: good bye sex life.

      For the very few percent of people who actually do have problems with this, the solution is not a night guard, you need to stop doing it! A night guard won’t stop you. Probably no one will ever tell you this though because it’s easier buying a disgusting mouth appliance than to make an effort to exert some control over your sleep state. Relax and stop grinding your teeth. Your brain sends the message to grind your brain can send the message to stop. Make a conscious positive thought to not grind just before you go bed and no more grinding.

  22. My dentist talks about teeth grinding a lot. Like it’s the root of all my dental problems, except that I’ve never been a tooth grinder. I sleep like a baby and I don’t have jaw pain when I wake. The big secret about bruxism is emperor’s new clothes. Dressed up with a $400 custom made night guard set; warning: good bye sex life.

    For the very few percent of people who actually do have problems with this, the solution is not a night guard, you need to stop doing it! A night guard won’t stop you. Probably no one will ever tell you this though because it’s easier buying a disgusting mouth appliance than to make an effort to exert some control over your sleep state. Relax and stop grinding your teeth. Your brain sends the message to grind your brain can send the message to stop. Make a conscious positive thought to not grind just before you go bed and no more grinding.

  23. Katy Austin says:

    I just started using a CPAP nasal pillow about 2 weeks ago and just this week began to grind my teeth or clench my jaw. I’m waking up with a super sore jaw and can hardly close my teeth together.

    Any idea why I’m just now grinding? I am having trouble sleeping due to the cpap being new to me as well as being stressed due to a new job.

    Thank you in advance.

  24. My 4 year old son has recently had a check up and we were told he has 10 cavities! One of his little teeth are even broken. They want to treat all his molars with crowns under general anesthetic.I came across this post and wondered if his severe tooth grinding in his sleep has anything to do with it. He even grinds during his nap at daycare and has been doing this for about two years. Could the fact that he snores heavily and is a mouth breather also be indicators that his airway is small and may have apnia issues?

    • Rebecca: Yes, it may be the case. Mouth breathing and nighttime grinding is seen along side the small airway and all of its comorbidities. Getting cavities a very multifactorial process. For example, because of his small airway he may be very tired and always looking for a snack that will pick him up. These snacks that kids seek out are the fermentable carbs that cause cavities, even with good oral hygiene.

      Sorry to hear about this. But you are the right track to finding the root cause for his cavities and mouth breathing. Good luck!

  25. Anonymous says:

    Hi ,
    I am suffering from teeth grinding since my childhood but not regularly. But now from past one year it has become a habit for me ,my wife tells me almost every day .

    I am so much worried about this plz can any one help me and suggest me to overcome this.

    Thank you very much !!!!!

    Your suggestions are appreciated!!

  26. I grind my teeth during sleep, I wore night guard, but it causes uncomfortable sleeping.
    At least now I can search more on Apnea.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  27. Louise Love says:

    I have been grinding my teeth in my sleep since I was a small child. I sleep every night with a mouth splint, to help delay the bone loose that is occurring. I am also tired and lazy a lot of the time.

    I recently had a home sleep study and the results say that I have absolutely no sleep apnea. I only managed to get 3.5 hours in, but the clinic says that was enough to show that I do not have it.

    I am really disappointment that I don’t have apnea, because I want to find a way to stop grinding.

    I have already tried meditation and hypnosis (very hard to do hypnosis because, I just fall asleep during it). So what other reason is there for grinding teeth?

    Could it just be emotional? I know I grind more when wearing the splint, but how else can I protect my teeth?

    • Louise Love says:


      I had a Home Polysomnography Sleep Study

  28. Hillygirl says:

    I have had bruxism and tmj issues since I can remember, I gave up the day time grinding, but I still (sometimes??) clench and grind at night. I had braces, but that didn’t seem to help and my bite is still unstable. I can’t find a good place to rest my teeth. I also have joint hypermobility.
    I did a sleep study a few weeks ago, but only showed up as mild sleep apnoea. The sleep specialist is in another city, and just analysed my polysomnogram without an appointment, without making any recommendations.
    Still, because of tiredness, adrenal weirdness, tmj pain, neck pain, and headaches, I’m trialling APAP with a full face mask. After night 2, my teeth hurt so badly I thought I had a cavity. So I started using my 12-year old night guard (yeah, the one you said not to use) because I was so afraid of breaking my teeth.
    The theories in your article make a lot of sense.
    Why would CPAP (APAP) make the clenching/grinding so much worse? This is only night 5, so is there any risk in continuing the APAP?
    Any suggestions for the next step?

    • It’s very hard to say without seeing you. Are you using a humidifier on the CPAP? Dry air can make the mouth dry and make the teeth ache. What kind of mask are you using? Certain masks can make the teeth hurt or even cause jaw pain. Don’t underestimate “only mild” sleep apnea. All the symptoms you speak of are related. You may also have a bite issue which can contribute to your jaw and tooth pain. You need to see a dentist that can handle your complex case. Good luck to you.


  29. Hi, I am a medical science student and I am interested in the “latest research article” that you mentioned which reveal that sleep apnea is a major cause for symptoms like teeth grinding. Would you mind to provide the reference of that article?

    • Any response to Albert? I’m curious if Teeth grinding does cause sleep apnea. My girlfriend grinds her teeth at night and I want to see what it could be related to.

  30. Rachel Cooper says:

    My 16yr old son recently had a septoplasty and Turbinate reduction which was supposed to reduce his snoring and teeth grinding for which he wears a mouthguard at night…but 6 weeks after surgery he is still grinding away…my elder son used to grind his teeth and I suspect he still does…not sure now what to do

  31. Very interesting article doctor.
    Do you suppose that grinding of the teeth is responsible for the irregular growth of wisdom teeth, requiring them to be extracted?
    I feel this is the case with me because I don l do grind my teeth a lot and my wisdom teeth try to come out but don’t, while there is a cut around the last molar, which has become swollen.
    Just a thought.

  32. very interesting… I have bruxism and the past two years it was especially bad. Now i have found out that I have several cavities, especially in the back where I usually grind my teeth the most. I also have a jaw that clicks. Could this be related to bruxism?

  33. Ifeoma Joy says:

    What is the remedy to stop my child from cracking or grinding her teeth at night while sleeping?

  34. Hey there
    Thanks for your article
    I have teeth grinding for almost a year and I’m using a night guard , it doesn’t solve the problem, it only changes the pattern of grinding!
    I think one of the reasons is that these days there are lots of signals around us wifi , mobile , … and also we keep reading and reading in social medias and we get lots of different information everyday which causes our brain be under pressure.

  35. I have used a cpap machine for sleep apnea for almost 2 years now. It made a huge difference in my quality of sleep and I am no longer tired, falling asleep during the day. However, it did nothing to change teeth clenching, grinding…I started recently to use a very small mouthguard to keep the teeth from grinding on each other. I do think it is stress related because a number of years ago, I went to visit a friend, and I had no responsibilities, just very peaceful and quiet surroundings, all alone during the day, and just relaxed. I realized after a few days, I was not grinding my teeth!

  36. Thank you for this enlightening article. I am interested in learning more about the connection between apnea and grinding, and I’m wondering if you were able to provide references for this powerful research, as others have asked.

  37. anonymous says:

    it’s been a long time I grind my teeth at night …and I m unconscious about it …my sis sleeps next to me and she always complains about it.she even recorded me grinding my teeth and thats really really horrible to listen…cant find the exact reason of it coz its been like years and years. do i really have stress for years….please help me to get rid of it….

  38. Eric Biran says:

    I would like to know more about the “oral appliance” which you mention in the article, which a dentist can make to open the airway.

    I have been clenching my teeth in my sleep for over 10 years now. At first, the pain in my jaw was so bad, I thought maybe I had a cavity or another wisdom tooth. I have environmental allergies and very mild asthma. I have been wearing a night guard for a good while, but lately the clenching is so bad that my gums now need surgery (or the exposed roots need to be filled).

    My dad snores at night, and my uncle had a CPAP machine, so I would not be surprised if I have sleep apnea even though I am in my 30s. I have been having other medical problems lately, where I have generally been healthy in the past. I wake up with my heart racing or my brain feels fried in the morning. I am worried for my safety, but the dentist never offered anything to address the clenching, only to protect the teeth. I need to find someone who can deal with the cause and not just the symptoms, but I don’t even know what to ask for. Thank you in advance for any assistance and for your article, which confirms so much of what I suspected.

    • Eric. Thanks for asking. I’d agree that you may have SDB issues. Time to find out. Read my book for a fast track to the right path to finding out. Available on Amazon. The 8 Hour Sleep Paradox.

  39. Ann Van den Broeck says:

    What if you clench your teeth vs grind? This has been a real issue for me the last years. This night I woke up with severe pain in my jaw and molar sensitivity. So I took a painkiller at 2 am. I have nightmares or tense dreams almost every night as I have a sleep disorder all my life where I sleepwalk and sleeptalk and dream vividly. I cant do anything to stop it 🙁 So my only cure seems a mouth guard and my dentist is going to make me one… So far I am using some moldable ones from amazon because this is too painful for me not to.
    I did a sleep study years ago for my sleepwalking and they only saw I skipped some sleep stages. I only stopped breathing a couple times shortly but they said it was normal.

  40. I use a night guard because I grind my teeth like crazy at night and wake up extremely tense. I wake up very refreshed though, so I’m curious if it’s still possible if I have sleep apnea?

  41. Shantal Ibarra says:

    Hi Mark,

    I grind my teeth at night, this past few years im suffering from jaw cramps, i think this is the cause of teeth grinding. They said that teeth grinding is bad, I felt so embarrassed every time I had sleep over with friends. The jaw cramps is getting worse that it takes 3-4 days, there are times that I can’t handle the pain anymore. Pain reliever is quite helpful but it takes short time. I frequently visit a dentist to check if something wrong with the alignment of my teeth or any damage, but they haven’t seen wrong with the teeth. How can I treat teeth grinding? Any chances that we can cure this?

  42. Dr. Burhenne- This is a great article to help people understand they shouldn’t just go with the old standard of wearing a mouthguard and suffering consequences of not getting a full diagnosis and treatment. I have been suggesting SOVA as an interim mouthguard because it is thin (less altering to vertical opening and occlusion than any mouthguards I’ve seen) Could you take a look at and confirm if you feel it could be useful in protecting tooth structure and restorations until accurate diagnosis and proper treatment is achieved? Many thanks! I am a dental hygienist x25 years. So glad to see this evolving approach to bruxism treatment. In my experience, few patients are willing to pay for costly custom night guards, and I am not comfortable with use of bulky, ill fitting OTC night guards. This SOVA alternative seems like it could be a great temporary solution to protect teeth until patients get root cause resolved. Input please? Thank you!

    • Dr. Burhenne says:

      Hi Amy!

      Thanks for being a reader.

      I just ordered my free samples of the SOVA and am excited to try out this product. I’ll get back to you when I do. Thanks for mentioning this product. It looks intriguing. I always learn so much from hygienists! Remember the microbead issue? That was a hygienist that sounded the alarm.


  43. This theory does not explain why a fetus in utero grinds their teeth. They receive oxygen via the placenta.

  44. I clench my jaw in my sleep and I know I have sleep apnea. My tonsils and adenoids were removed to them being enlarged and have opened up my airways a lot. That still hasn’t stopped my jaw clenching. what should I do?

    My boyfriend also grinds his teeth in his sleep. I wonder if he might have sleep apnea too?

  45. I’ve just started checking out Zephyr technology. It’s a sleep test done in the home or a sleep lab that assesses whether a mandibular advancement device would work for you. You have to be fitted with a special dental titration device that attaches to the sleep test equipment. Given that MAD can be pricey, I’d much rather pay a fraction of the price to have a sleep test done with the dental titration device to see if MAD will work!!

    If someone has sleep apnea due to a narrow palate, regressed jaw – would a palate expander (like ALF) be a possible solution? I’ve even heard of devices that stimulate forward bone growth in the jaw, though that is harder to find info on.

    • Mark Burhenne, DDS says:

      Hi Sue!

      Visit a AADSM Dentist to find out the best solution for your personal situation.

      Dr. B

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