Jaw clenching in a dream: why does it occur and what to do about it?

A person may not guess what is interfering with his sound sleep until he learns from loved ones that gnashing of teeth is heard at night. This is a fairly common problem, affecting 15–20 % of the population, but most people are not even aware of it or do not attach importance to it until they face the consequences. Why does a person clench his teeth strongly in a dream and is there anything to be done about it? 

What is bruxism

Teeth clenching while sleeping is called bruxism. An attack, during which the jaws are tightly clenched, rubbing and grinding is heard, lasts from a few seconds to 10 minutes and is periodically repeated throughout the night. Usually, the phenomenon is accompanied by a change in blood pressure, respiratory failure, and increased heart rate.

Bruxism occurs in 50% of children; as they grow older, in most cases, teeth grinding at night stops. But it’s better to find out the reasons right away in order to avoid future health problems. In adults, the phenomenon is less common, and it is not considered an independent disease, but this is a clear signal that not everything is in order with the body.

There are two types of bruxism:

  1. Day. Not so common and easier to recognize. Periodically during the day, in tense moments, a spasm of the jaw occurs, which takes on an unusual, abnormal position. Self-control will help in most cases of daytime bruxism.
  2. Night. Much more dangerous, because during a sound sleep, a person does not control his actions.

At the time of the attack, pressure is exerted on the jaw, which is 10 times higher than the load during chewing.

Reason # 1: stress 

Scientists from the University of Düsseldorf conducted a study in which 48 subjects participated, and proved that the main cause of bruxism is stress. In a dream, the body rests, cleanses itself and gets rid of unnecessary information, and clenching his jaw, a person continues to experience daytime troubles at night. Constant nervous tension is a sure way to develop this disorder.


  • Representatives of such professions are most susceptible to stress: surgeon, photojournalist, pilot of a passenger plane, realtor, manager.
  • Dark chocolate, laughter and … good deeds help reduce the amount of stress hormones. The famous scientist Allan Lux claims that after sincere selfless help to strangers, a person experiences happiness and satisfaction. The body produces endorphins, it relaxes and gets rid of stress. This is also confirmed by a 30-year study, which showed that women who took care of other people, and not just their family, were 2 times less likely to get sick and were more happy about life.

Bad habits

The onset of bruxism can be triggered by lifestyle. The negative impact is exerted by:

  • nicotine addiction;
  • drinking alcohol in large quantities;
  • exceeding the daily intake of caffeine;
  • taking antidepressants.

Congenital anomalies

The reason may be hidden in defects of the facial skeleton, for example, in the incorrect structure of the joints that connect the temporal bone and the lower jaw.


Disturbances in the functioning of the nervous system provoke various sleep disorders, which are often accompanied by teeth grinding – apnea, somnambulism, nightmares, enuresis. Also, trismus and bruxism are signs of damage to the trigeminal nerve, which causes tone of the masticatory muscles.

Dental reasons

Various problems in the oral cavity can also lead to the development of bruxism:

  • malocclusion;
  • loss of some teeth;
  • braces;
  • dentures, veneers;
  • poorly placed fillings.

The theory of helminths

It is believed that the main cause of teeth grinding is helminths. There is no scientific evidence for this theory. But it is known that an organism infected with parasites suffers from a lack of vitamin B12. Because of this, the brain receives less oxygen, sleep disturbances, involuntary contractions of the chewing muscles occur. Therefore, this reason cannot be ruled out either. And it will always be appropriate to check whether the body is suffering from worms.


Grinding teeth at night is the first and sure sign of bruxism. But it is almost impossible to find out about him without outside help. In order to independently identify the ailment, you should pay attention to the state of the enamel, to the presence of an increased reaction to sweet, hot or cold. Perhaps there are new holes, chips or dentures are damaged for no apparent reason. All this is indirect evidence of the development of a movement disorder.

There are a number of additional signs that may indicate the manifestation of nocturnal bruxism:

  • throbbing pain in the temples in the morning;
  • dizziness and ringing in the ears;
  • soreness of the jaw muscles;
  • constant feeling of tiredness, drowsiness;
  • discomfort in the sinuses;
  • disturbed sleep and frequent awakenings.

Bruxism treatment

First you need to identify the nature of bruxism, determine whether the problem is related to the dental field or has psychological reasons. Based on the results, it is necessary to contact the right specialist as soon as possible in order to avoid serious consequences. The doctor will tell you what to do first and how to get rid of the problem. The most common treatment measures are:

  • Complete dental examination and elimination of all problems in the oral cavity, including correction of malocclusion.
  • The use of special mouth guards, made individually according to the size of the patient’s jaw. With their help, the teeth are protected from injury, but they cannot completely eliminate the problem.
  • Minimal amount of Botox injections. It prevents the jaws from tightly clenching, partially paralyzing the muscles of the mouth.
  • Applying soothing warm compresses before bed.
  • Taking medications and vitamin and mineral complexes, including magnesium, calcium, B vitamins.
  • Minimizing stressful situations, allocating time for rest and walking during the day.
  • Limiting heavy food intake in the evening. This will promote muscle relaxation and healthy sleep.

If a serious jaw pathology is detected, surgical intervention is possible, for example, plastic articular disc, or the use of laser therapy.

Special exercises and massage

Exercise and self-massage will help in the treatment of bruxism:

  1. Squeezing the jaw with your palms below on both sides, you need to lightly press with your fingers, massaging it in a circular motion. It is advisable to repeat such manipulations, which help relieve stress from the problem area, every day for at least 2-3 minutes.
  2. Chin muscle training. Opening your mouth slightly, you need to push the jaw back with your fingers. The procedure is repeated several times during the day, at least 10 times in 1 approach.
  3. Chewing gum exercise. Roll the gum balls from one corner of your mouth to the other. It is better to do this before going to bed, until you feel fatigue in the muscles, then the likelihood that the jaws will be tightly clenched in a dream will dramatically decrease.

Possible complications

If measures are not taken in time, bruxism can cause a number of serious consequences:

  • Abrasion, loosening and loss of teeth.
  • The development of caries.
  • Inflammation of periodontal tissues.
  • Malocclusion.
  • Temporomandibular joint pathologies.
  • Chronic headaches.
  • Depression and nervousness.
  • Spasms and pain in the facial muscles.

The psychological consequences of bruxism are dire. Teeth grinding gives rise to many complexes. A person becomes withdrawn, irritable, avoids new acquaintances, embarrassed by his problem.

At the slightest suspicion of bruxism, you should immediately consult a doctor. The sooner you can identify the problem and start treatment, the sooner you can return to a fulfilling life.

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