Teeth grinding is incredibly common in my dental practice, and research suggests that up to one in three people may suffer from night bruxism (teeth grinding). When I started practicing dentistry, I was astounded by how often I was seeing it in patients. For a long time I would talk about stress, make the patient a night splint to prevent damage of the teeth, and that would be it.
I’ve since come to learn that teeth grinding is a sign that you’re not breathing the right way during sleep. Your brain receives a message that your airways are closing (which is similar to the choking response) and it pulls the jaw forward to open your throat, which causes you to clench or push the teeth together.
If you typically jump into bed and drift off easily but wake up the next morning only to feel like you’ve hardly slept—and experience brain fog and irritability throughout the day—you could be showing symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing, namely, upper airway resistance syndrome, or UARS. According to the National Institutes of Health, up to 70 million people are affected by chronic sleep disorders. Most people wouldn’t think they’re at risk, but what they don’t realize is that anyone who hasn’t had proper dental, jaw, or facial development can be affected.