Unconsciously Clenching Jaw | Causes, Treatment & Facts

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Unconsciously clenching jaw

If you have ever woken up with a sore face, tight jaw, or a dull headache, you might be clenching  jaw unconsciously in the night. Bruxism, teeth clenching, or grinding is a relatively common condition among people today and several factors trigger this condition. While this normally happens during your sleep, it can also happen when you are awake. This condition, however, can cause serious problems if left untreated. Don’t worry, there are solutions and treatments as well. If you believe you suffer from this condition, this article may just come to your help. Let’s know more about this condition and how to treat unconsciously clenching jaw.

What is Bruxism?

Bruxism, also known as teeth grinding, is a condition where people consciously or unconsciously clench, grind, or gnash their teeth with the jaw muscles. This condition may involve only the front teeth or all the teeth.


Symptoms of Bruxism

In most cases, Bruxism is not very severe enough to cause any serious problems, but this can vary from one person to the next. The common symptoms and signs of this condition include:

  1. Chewed areas on cheek or tongue 
  2. Paining jaw muscles 
  3. Tooth damage (worn enamel, chip fractures, loose teeth, or flattened tops)
  4. Earaches (no ear infection symptoms)
  5. Headaches 
  6. Soreness or neck pain 
  7. Sleep disturbance due to teeth grinding sound 
  8. Intense facial pain 
  9. Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ disorder)
  10. Teeth are sensitive to heat, cold, or pressure

Causes of Unconsciously Clenching Jaw During the Day or Night

Why do people grind their teeth involuntarily? Multiple factors can increase one’s risk and may cause bruxism. Some of these factors are listed below.

Misaligned Teeth Issues

Occlusion, also known as misaligned teeth, is a condition where both the jaws do not meet properly when closed and opened. This may be because of the way your teeth are settled in the mouth, or muscles or joint issues. So, one of the most common reasons for unconsciously clenching is misaligned teeth.

Stress or Anxiety

If you tend to get stressed or worried excessively, especially during the night, you may be at a greater risk of grinding or clenching your jaw during sleep. High levels of stress are likely to lead to unconscious teeth grinding during the night or the day.

Medical Reasons

Research has shown that medications trigger or increase the risk of developing bruxism. Medicines like antidepressants used to treat psychiatric problems may also cause you to grind your teeth unknowingly. It is believed that these drugs may change the working of the central nervous system and lead to problems like jaw clenching and teeth grinding. Some diseases like sleep apnea, or Parkinson’s disease are also known to be one of the causes of bruxism.


Bruxism tends to be a condition that runs within families. People who have a family history of clenching jaw unconsciously are at a greater risk of having this condition. According to research, children with parents who have bruxism are twice as likely to have the same condition.

Clenching Teeth

Treatment for Teeth Grinding

Based on the reason behind your unconscious teeth grinding, the treatment may also vary. Like if this condition is because of stress, then monitoring your stress levels will be the best way to deal with it. So, here are some effective ways to treat Bruxism.

1. Wear Night Guards

One of the most effective and simple ways is to wear a mouthguard for teeth clenching. Your dentist may suggest you get a custom night guard made out of acrylic or plastic for you to wear on the teeth. While this doesn’t really put an end to teeth grinding, it does prevent your teeth from potential damage.

Mouthguards to prevent Bruxism

2. Keep yourself Relaxed

If you believe the cause of unconscious teeth grinding is stress, the best way to stop it is to relieve stress and discover ways to tackle it. Some things that can help in keeping yourself relaxed include meditation, listening to some relaxing music, or a warm bath before bedtime.

3. Massage the Jaw

Those who suffer from TMJ disorder also run the risk of unconsciously clenching or grinding the jaw. Those suffering from this condition can benefit from a jaw massage because this helps to loosen the muscles and alleviate pain. Just like other body muscles, the jaw muscles, when massaged, feel relaxed, thereby alleviating pain.

4. Avoid Foods that Require a Lot of Chewing

Some foods need to be chewed much more than others, and this can cause more damage to teeth other than the one caused by teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Chewing gum and steaks.

5. Stay Self-Aware

If your jaw clenching is mainly during the day, it’s important to take notice of the condition when you’re doing it. Keep a check on your jaw and mouth position throughout the day. Keep your jaw in a comfortable position and lips held together. The more self-aware you are about your jaw and teeth positioning, the lesser the chances of teeth grinding or jaw clenching.

6. Be Aware of Medicines that you are Taking

Some drugs and medications are known to trigger unconscious teeth grinding and clenching problems. These medications usually include those used to treat psychiatric problems like antidepressants, or antipsychotics. If you’re taking such medicines, you may want to reconsider your options because these can trigger bruxism.

7. Take Required Medicines

Some medicines are considered as being useful for regulating neurotransmitters and reducing the occurrence of this condition. If your dentist suggests medications to help treat the condition, it’s best to follow his advice and take them.

Our Verdict

Unconscious teeth grinding or jaw clenching is a common problem that is caused by several factors including stress, medications, TMJ disorder, etc. While this condition can be painful, it is not life-threatening and can be treated and managed with a few simple stretches, jaw exercises, and lifestyle changes. Nevertheless, if you feel that your symptoms are getting worse and interfering with your daily activities, it’s best to visit your dentist to get the appropriate treatment.


Author Since:  July 5, 2021

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