Teeth-Grinding during Sleep: What Is it, How it Changes Your Face Shape, + Solutions

The Dangers of Teeth Grinding and How You Can Stop
 
Is it possible to grind one’s teeth and have no clue that you’re even doing it? Yup, it's called bruxism and even change your face's shape over time. Most people don't even realize that they're doing it since it occurs in their sleep. Fortunately, there are holistic approaches to easing this kind of tension. 
Plastic teeth holding plastic doughnut next to piece of cake and cupcake
 
Is there a single cause of adult teeth grinding? 
If only it were that simple.
 

Dentists have traced teeth-grinding back to anxiety, stress, sleep disorders, an abnormal bite, overconsumption of caffiene—even braces can be the culprit.

Infographic of symptoms that can warn you of bruxism
Ok, so how can you spot your propensity for grinding your teeth?  

For most, their roommates or spouses will recognize it from being woken up by the noise (a very distinct, truly sounds like two rocks being ground to each other).
 
Most do not realize they are grinding their teeth but will suffer headaches and tension in their jaw and head.

What’s your masseter muscle got to do with it? 
If you’re a fitness junkie, you can likely identify every muscle in your torso and extremities but when it comes to tooth grinding, you need to look further north. Without a masseter muscle, you would be taking meals with a straw, because this parallelogram-shaped muscle connects your mandible (jawbone) to your cheekbone. 
 

The masseter muscle is the most powerful muscle in your entire body. 
Cartoon of side profile of woman indicating location of masseter muscle

Tell-tale signs of tooth grinding include:

  • Constant headaches
  • Jaw tenderness
  • Teeth are worn down and sometimes show cracks

Girl lying on side in bed with arm touching jaw, as if in discomfortLet's Talk About Square Face Syndrome

Once it reaches advanced stages, it can physically destroy your teeth and even alter your facial appearance. These are common conditions that patients develop over time if they keep grinding their teeth and don’t seek attention from a dentist to correct the problem. 

    "With people who have sleep bruxism, the muscles go into hyper-function," says James Mah, a professor of clinical science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Dental School.

    "Much like a bodybuilder that's doing repetitive exercise day after day, the muscles enlarge."

    Teeth wear down and shorten due to being perpetually abused, while the facial muscles become very pronounced and bigger. This extreme outcome happens so frequently, the dental profession has given it a name: Square Face Syndrome.  

    Drawing of a woman with a square draw, suffering from 'Square Face Syndrome'


    Solutions for teeth grinders to try:

     
    1. Guard Yourself: The easiest and least expensive way to try to work on your tooth grinding habit is to be fitted for a mouthguard by your dentist. If money is an issue, the second best solution is to buy an over-the-counter guard and wear it every night. 

    2. Zen Out: Counter that stress by exercising, meditation, taking a walk outside sans phone. Warm baths have been known to ease tension. 

    Girl relaxing in bath with flowers and plants

    3. Get a Little Woo-Woo: Consider alternative therapies like acupressure, facial massages, acupuncture, essential oils and other holistic practices. 

    Massaging your lower jaw and the surrounding areas with a gua sha tool (we like the one from Dr. Nadia) + Midnight Shift Oil will help relieve tension and stress, helping you relax for bed. Plus, it feels heavenly! ⠀⠀

    Double down on this skincare primetime with a relaxing oil that nourishes your skin AND helps you fall asleep with its aromatherapy components.

    Girl in silk white pajamas standing in front of mirror, preparing dropper to apply Midnight Shift Overnight Facial Oil to face

    4. Cut it: Eliminate or drastically cut back on sugar, caffeine and alcohol—particularly before bed, say the folks at The Sleep Institute. Schedule a bedtime facial massage instead of eating a cookie and see if you don’t have sweet dreams once you've added any or all of these practices to your daily schedule.