Teeth clenching, grinding and bruxism explained

3rd August 2015 by

There is a lot of confusion going on about the differences between the teeth/jaw habits that many people experience known as clenching, grinding and bruxism. Today’s blog will clarify what these terms actually mean and explain how they differ, so we can help you find the most effective solutions.

Clenching

Something we all do at times, clenching happens when you clamp down your jaws, with no other movement. If this becomes a frequent habit, you will tend to experience an aching jaw i.e. the bones and muscles are put under strain, resulting in a condition known as temporomandibular joint problems or TMJ. Additionally, severe clenching can cause headaches and earache.

Teeth Grinding

With the teeth grinding habit, people not only clench or tighten their jaws, they move them slightly from side to side. This not only puts strain on the jaws as with clenching, but over time the movement creates distinct wear-marks on your teeth. Often the actual damage cannot be seen except during a dental examination, so if you’re experiencing ongoing jaw pain you should book in for a check-up – this will allow us to nip the problem in the bud before any major damage occurs.

Bruxism

While we all clench or grind our teeth at times, bruxing is the condition where you do either of these things regularly – it is the set, frequent habit of clenching or grinding teeth.

Habitual clenching is most commonly an ‘awake bruxism’ and tends to happen when people are either concentrating hard or under strain. Clenching bruxism is considered semi-involuntary (by becoming more aware of it you can reduce the frequency of the habit) and is often accompanied by other stress signs such as nail and cheek biting.

Habitual grinding is typically a ‘sleep bruxism’, which is what makes it so tricky (you have no conscious control over it). Grinding bruxism is considered by many scientists to be part of the ‘sleep disturbance’ family, related to the central nervous system and issues with neurotransmitters. If you have this condition, you’ll often wake up with a sore jaw, which will tend to ease during the day. Should you have a partner, you’ll confirm the problem soon enough because the sound of grinding teeth can be so loud that it wakes them up at night (think of the old saying ‘gnashing of teeth’).

Treatment solutions

The good news is there are a number of effective treatments to tackle these issues:

  • Night Guard – this is a type of transparent fitted plate that slots comfortably around your teeth. Different materials can be used for your teeth grinding guard, such as acrylic or soft rubber, and you could opt for a partial (NTI type),  Lucia Jig or full dental guard.
  • Cerezen – Inconspicuous set of custom-fitted, removable inserts, which are designed to be worn day and / or night within the ear canal.  If you prefer a comfortable, discreet appliance which you can wear any time, the Cerezen™ device could be ideal for you.
  • Muscle Relaxants – these, including Botox injections, reduce the activity of the muscles involved in bruxism. Be aware that some medications can cause bruxism, so be sure to discuss your prescriptions with your doctor and dentist.
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation Therapies – meditation, psychotherapy and yoga have been shown to help people tackle their bruxism. Apps like Headspace can help. Additionally, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake (especially before bed) can also be helpful.
Conclusion

Most people experience teeth grinding or clenching occasionally, without damaging consequences. On the other hand, around one in ten people suffer from habitual bruxism and this is definitely something to sort out instead of ignore because it can have a serious impact on your teeth, jaw and general health. Whether you’re experiencing jaw pain and need a check-up to make sure you’re not grinding your teeth at night, or have a long-standing bruxism condition, rest assured that at Bow Lane Dental we offer the most cutting-edge solutions available to modern science. We’re on hand to discuss the treatments that will suit you best.

Further Reading

Is Yoga good for your teeth?

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