Teeth Grinding Vs. Clenching
Tooth grinding and clenching are common phenomenon amongst us humans and is a primal, involuntary, physiological response to stress, anxiety, concentrating, excessive physical exertion, recreational drug use and altered tooth positions (eg. due to a new filling).
Tooth grinding is where there are large, muscular forces clamping the teeth together, combined with side-ways movement, creating flat worn surfaces on the teeth. This is particularly noticeable across the front teeth.
Tooth clenching involves stronger forces again, gripping the teeth in a stationary position and intense contracting of the jaw muscles. The forces in tooth clenching can be up to 7 times the forces we use to eat our food. Clenching does not create the same wear as grinding, but instead you will see visible, vertical cracks in the teeth when they are dry. These stain brown over time and become more noticeable (another reason why clenching is often left undiagnosed until later adulthood).
The symptoms of the tooth grinding and clenching are reasonably the same, although they look slightly differently due to the differences in their nature.
The symptoms include:
- grinding sounds whilst asleep
- headaches, jaw joint and/or ear pain
- sore teeth, particularly in the morning
- tension in your face, such as temples, neck, shoulders, cheek
- aching while eating, especially chewy things
- clenching the jaw when angry, anxious or concentrating
- temperature sensitivity in teeth
- cracked or chipped tooth enamel
- tooth indentations on the tongue
- raised line on the inside of the cheek caused by biting and sucking the cheeks in
- loose teeth
The issue is that tooth grinding and clenching damages your teeth in a slow, but really serious and permanent way. Initially you may experience some or none of the symptoms above, but over the course of your life, major damage can be done.
Problems caused by tooth grinding/clenching may include:
- internal cracks in teeth
- excessive wear on teeth
- broken teeth, fillings, crowns and veneers
- TMD – dysfunction of the jaw joint
- pain in the jaw joint causing limited movement
- sore muscles/tension headaches
- terminal cracks through the teeth (only treatment is extraction)
- enlargement/bulging of the jaw muscles
As tooth grinding and clenching are involuntary and most of the time, people are unaware that they are doing it, treatments are limited and there is no direct “cure”.
- acknowledging there is a problem
- a splint or night guard
- stress management and relaxation techniques
- Botulinum Toxin A injections
- regular exercise
- cognitive behaviour therapy
If you think that you may be tooth grinding or clenching, call Sydney Boutique Dentistry in Waterloo, Sydney on (02) 9699 5199 or book online.