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7 Unpleasant Side Effects of Grinding Your Teeth

8 min read
by Dylan Hao |

Imagine the bite force of a full-grown pit bull chewing on a steak. Humans have that capacity — 250 pounds per square inch — when subconsciously grinding their teeth. That enamel-on-enamel connection can do some serious harm, especially when it happens continually.

But if you don’t know you’re grinding, how can you stop doing it?

The act of clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth involuntarily is called bruxism. It’s a sleep disorder shared by hundreds of thousands of people of all ages worldwide. 

What’s the big deal about bruxism, and why are possible solutions for it all over your social media feed?

Here, we’ll explore 7 of the most unpleasant side effects of grinding your teeth and offer some simple solutions to give you something to “gnaw on.”

Side Effects of Teeth Grinding

While many of us have bruxism, not all of us know we do. The thing about this condition is that its side effects can look similar to many other problems. 

Awake bruxers are more likely to catch the behaviors early and recognize they’re grinding before too much harm is done. Typically, this type of bruxing happens under stressful circumstances and is just as common in adults as in children. But once the bruxer is alert to the actions (which might happen as soon as they feel pain), they can stop the movements.

Sleep bruxing, on the other hand, is significantly more dangerous. Since you’re sleeping when you grind your teeth and clench your jaw, you won’t notice the actions until someone points them out or the damage has become too uncomfortable to be ignored.

These 7 side effects are a strong warning that you, too, might be bruxing in your sleep.

1. Teeth Damage

The most obvious side effect of grinding with a 250 psi is damaged teeth. When your upper and lower arches connect — and your jaw muscles begin grinding the two together — the enamel, although stronger than bone, naturally starts to weaken.

The result?

Oral health damage that will take a range of dentistry treatment options to fix, such as:

  • Cracks, fractures, and breaks in the tooth enamel
  • Tooth decay once bacteria settle into those gaps caused by the broken enamel
  • Progressive gum tissue erosion (periodontal disease)
  • Loose teeth due to gum loss and bone loss from periodontitis
  • Damage to existing restorations, including implants, fillings, and crowns
  • Shifting teeth from weaker gums and bone loss

Overall, untreated bruxism leads to oral health issues that can become harder to correct than whatever’s causing your bruxing. 

As soon as you think you might have joined the legion of teeth grinders in the world, your first line of defense is a custom-made night guard, like those we provide at JS Dental Lab.

This tiny but mighty oral appliance prevents the upper and lower teeth from touching, minimizing the damage your grinding can create.

2. Headaches and Neck Pain

One glaring, hard-to-ignore sign of bruxing is a consistent morning headache.

If you wake up most days with pain in your forehead, temples, or behind your eyes, chances are, it’s a bruxing headache.

Since teeth grinding and clenching create jaw muscle tension, the attached neck and head muscles feel the strain, leading to migraines and tension headaches

The link between sleep and headaches is intricately connected, with sleep disorders like bruxism causing morning-onset headaches. You may notice the discomfort starts in your temporal area, and the muscle strain causes pain in the neck and down to the shoulders. 

When those symptoms happen regularly, your body is telling you there’s a problem. You may have bruxism, or your bruxing has already caused extra stress on the jaw joint, leading to a TMJ disorder.

3. TMJ Pain

The part of your head that connects the jaw to the skull is called the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ. When excess stress is placed on that delicate joint, as happens with bruxing or trauma to the facial area, it can become damaged. 

Swollen or dislocated joints cause significant pain, but if that pain is from an injury, it can go away on its own within a few weeks with a little extra TLC. 

However, if the discomfort continues, you may have a temporomandibular disorder (TMD).

There are over 30 different types of TMDs. Talk to your doctor about the best way to manage yours. You may need a specific type of mouthguard or splint that a TMJ specialist supplies.

4. Ear Disorders

The TMJ sits slightly underneath the inner ear. When the joint is inflamed, it creates an obstacle for nerves to pass to and from the brain, a problem that links bruxism and TMJ conditions to ear disorders.

Inflamed nerves or misinformation leads to:

  • Feelings of pressure in the ear
  • Ear pain
  • Tinnitus 

Studies show that these sensations can stem from the mechanical pressure exerted by the TMJ because of its proximity to the inner ear. Strong bite forces can also compress the muscles near the jaw, including the eustachian tube connected to the ear’s tympani muscle.

In general, if you’ve noticed sensations of ear fullness, jaw muscle discomfort, and TMJ pain, teeth grinding could be the culprit relating the three together.

5. Overall Fatigue

Your body needs to rest, and that’s why we sleep daily. Sleep is the time your brain renews and heals any damaged cells, rejuvenating your brain function and helping you continue to grow. 

Consistent lack of sleep increases your risk of developing long-term health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. It’s also linked to higher rates of depression.

Grinding keeps you from getting the deep sleep you need to feel refreshed the next day. The movement can also wake you up between cycles if the pain from clenching gets to be too much. 

Even though you think you got your solid 6-8 hours in, the gnashing of your jaws kept your brain distracted from its work.

6. Jaw Muscle Overwork

At the same time, that constant movement is adding more damage to your jaw muscles. Imagine if you were at a gym or engaging in a physical activity that required non-stop use of a specific muscle, like dangling from a rope using just your arms or standing on one leg for 8 hours.

Sounds tiring, right?

This is similar to what your jaw muscles do while you’re asleep. They clench and grind for hours without much of a break between sleep cycles, and that overwork shows up as jaw pain.

7. Scalloped Tongue

Never heard of scalloped tongue? That’s okay; most people haven’t. However, this lesser-known condition is characterized by changes along the edges of the tongue that look like wavy patterns. 

Although innocent by itself, a scalloped tongue is frequently a sign of more serious problems in your body. This visible marking could be showing that you’re dehydrated. Smoking is a strong risk factor for a scalloped tongue, too. If neither of those apply to you, but your tongue is taking on those rippled edges, you likely have bruxism. 

For more on scalloped tongue, see Scalloped Tongue: What It Is and How to Treat It

Preventative Measures and Treatment for Grinding

With all these side effects possible just from grinding your teeth, how can you prevent or treat the problem?

First, it’s essential to determine why you’re grinding. Treatments for bruxism, like night guards, can minimize the damage, but they won’t stop the actions. That can only happen if you solve the cause of bruxing. 

Why We Brux

The number one reason for teeth grinding is stress anxiety. There is an intricate link between the two that researchers are still studying, but the correlation is too strong to be denied.

If you have had an unusual load of internal stress (sickness, disease, chronic insomnia, etc.) or external stress (work, relationships, finances), that could trigger your grinding.

Other causes of bruxism include:

  • Genetics (A history of bruxing in your family increases your likelihood of inheriting the behavior.)
  • Regular use of tobacco, alcohol, or caffeine
  • Smoking
  • Taking medications like antidepressants or those that treat seizures or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

Work with your doctor to determine the reason for your bruxing, and you’ll be on the path to creating a strategic treatment plan to stop it.

Night Guards

Unfortunately, there’s no magic way to instantly eliminate the causes of bruxism. But there are methods for preventing your grinding from causing more damage than it’s already inflicted.

Start with visiting our JS Dental Lab website and ordering a custom-made night guard from the comfort of your couch. Our high-quality guards are professional-grade, so they’re similar to what you’d receive at the dentist’s office but with a significantly lower price tag. And you’ll never have to leave your house to have your impressions made and get your new oral appliance. 

Night guards minimize the contact between your upper and lower teeth and give your jaw muscles the rest they need to reduce headaches and facial pain.

Stress Reduction

Once your night guard impression kit is on its way, you can begin planning strategies to also lower your stress levels at home. This can include anything you enjoy doing that soothes your mind and body and gives you a feeling of happiness or tranquility.

Examples of these types of activities include (but are in no way limited to):

  • Exercise - Instead of boosting stress hormones, active movement releases feel-good endorphins like dopamine.
  • Yoga and meditation - Both are good for soothing the mind. Yoga has a physical component that meditation doesn’t have, but they’re both excellent for stress relief.
  • Taking walks in nature - This activity increases your Vitamin D, decreases depressive feelings, and makes you feel better overall.
  • Journal in the morning or evening - Writing about things you’re grateful for or brainstorming areas of worry is a research-based way to decrease stress.

Your version of stress relief could be anything from engaging in your favorite hobby to listening to music. Whatever works for you can help decrease stress hormones and improve your bruxing symptoms.

Dental and Medical Treatment

Whether your dental issues caused your bruxing or vice versa, it’s important that you get them taken care of as soon as possible. Those cavities or damaged dental restorations could be easy to fix now, but if you let them sit for too long, they could become more difficult dental services like root canals or extractions.

Medical issues must also be addressed quickly. If you believe an underlying health condition, such as obstructive sleep apnea or TMD, is causing your bruxism, talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns. They may recommend further testing or prescribe muscle relaxants to help you stop grinding and soothe your sore jaw.


Are your symptoms of bruxism, such as tooth sensitivity, earaches, or tooth pain, becoming too obvious to ignore? Is your sleep partner telling you that you’re grinding in your sleep? 

Teeth clenching and jaw clenching can lead to more dangerous problems and, in severe cases, cause tooth loss and chronic health conditions.

The good news is this damage can be minimized with a JS Dental Lab night guard, worn each night while you work with your doctor to find out how to stop the behavior permanently.

Shop our night guards today!

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