August 2020 | Reviewed by: Jon Saito, MD and Rafael J. Sepulveda, MD
What is bruxism?
Grinding or clenching teeth during sleep is known as sleep-related bruxism. It is common for your jaw to contract while you sleep. When these contractions are too strong, they produce the sound of tooth grinding. This can cause dental damage by wearing your teeth down. In the most severe cases, hundreds of events can occur during the night. In milder cases, the grinding may vary from night to night.
Severe bruxism may briefly disturb your sleep. Only at rare times will it cause you to fully wake up. Loud sounds caused by the grinding of teeth can be very unpleasant. This can also disturb the sleep of a bed partner. It can occur during all stages of sleep. It is most common in stages one and two of non-REM sleep.
The cause of sleep-related bruxism is unclear but has been associated with stress, genetics, medications, and sleep-disordered breathing.