Teeth Grinding and Clenching? TMJ Pain?

The technical term for grinding or clenching your teeth is ‘bruxism’. Bruxism occurs when you’re either sliding your teeth back and forth, or you hold your teeth together tightly. While you may not be conscious of doing so, this can happen both during the day and while sleeping.

Whether it’s a daytime habit or it happens when you’re sleeping, how do you know if you’re grinding or clenching your teeth? For some, a diagnosis is relatively easy. You may wake-up with jaw pain or soreness in the muscles of your jaw (TMJ – temporomandibular joint), or you may have a dull morning headache. A sleeping partner might complain about the noise you’re making while you grind your teeth at night. Others who clench their teeth during the day notice a change in how their teeth meet, or have difficulty chewing. It can even be mistaken for an earache. However, not everyone experiences these symptoms. Oftentimes diagnosis occurs when Dr. Hochberg, Dr. Diora or our hygienists notices advanced wear of the teeth’s chewing surfaces.


What causes Bruxism? No one really knows! For some it’s a result of stress or anxiety. Clenching can happen subconsciously when thinking about problems, or even when lifting heavy items. It’s been found to be more prevalent in smokers, as well as those who have a higher intake of caffeine and alcohol. For others, especially those whose symptoms are worse when they wake-up, the problems can relate to sleep disorders such as snoring or sleep apnea. Or the problem could be due to missing or crooked teeth or teeth that aren’t aligned properly.

Whether the problems arise during the day or at night, the result of Bruxism can cause discomfort and damage to your teeth. The first step is to ensure that there isn’t another cause of the problem. This may entail a visit to an ENT to rule out an ear infection, a sleep study to rule out sleep apnea, and a dental exam to ensure that cysts, tumors or dental disease aren’t causing the discomfort. Once Bruxism is diagnosed, there are solutions for both for day and nighttime grinding and clenching to reduce jaw pain, and protect your teeth from further wear and damage.

One of the main tools available to treat bruxism is a night guard, also called an occlusal appliance or splint. There are different types of night guards, some fitting over the bottom teeth, and others over the top. Drs. Hochberg and Diora will determine which guard is the best choice for you. If you’re diagnosed with sleep apnea, your physician may recommend a mandibular advancement device (MAD) that our doctors can fabricate for you.

And you can help out as well – try these tips:

  • Avoid chewing gum and eating hard foods
  • Decrease your intake of caffeinated products
  • Reduce consumption of foods that require a lot of chewing
  • Keep hydrated – lots of water
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • If muscles are sore – use wet heat
  • Use the exercises provided by Drs. Hochberg and Diora to help stretch the TMJ muscles
  • Learn how to massage your facial, neck and shoulder muscles
  • Become conscious of daytime clenching – And tell your jaw to relax! You can use your own biofeedback to let the muscles go back to their natural position

Whatever the cause, teeth grinding and clenching can become problematic. Diagnosing Bruxism is the first step followed by the appropriate treatment. We, at Colony Square Dental Associates, are available to help you and your jaw muscles relax!

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