Grinding Teeth Vs. Clenching Teeth

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is an involuntary action involving grinding or clenching of the teeth. Most people will suffer from bruxism at some point in their lives. Generally, the disorder arises in times of stress, but resolves itself without too many consequences. However, about ten percent of the population grind or clench their teeth frequently enough to cause dental damage and other health issues. The majority of these individuals suffer their worst bruxism episodes at night, while they are sleeping.

How does grinding differ from clenching?

Grinding and clenching can have identical causes, such as stress and anxiety. However, the consequences resulting from each action differ somewhat. Both grinding and clenching involve contact between a person’s lower and upper teeth, and both also involve the jaw muscles.

Clenching forms the basis of all bruxism habits. If you are grinding, you will also be clenching, but teeth clenchers do not always grind. If you grind your teeth, you are basically moving them repeatedly from back to front, or even sideways, while your jaw is very tense. This can often make a fairly unpleasant sound that is loud enough to wake up your sleeping partner. If you are only clenching, however, you are not moving your teeth and jaws, but you are still exerting a great deal of downward pressure on your teeth. (To simplify, Grinding = Clenching + Movement).

A whole host of problems may arise as a result of the pressure placed on your jaws and teeth when you clench. It is not uncommon to find people with bruxism who also experience jaw pain, TMJ, headaches, earaches and neuralgia. If you find that you are grinding as well as clenching, you may also have loose, chipped or cracked teeth.

Doctors and dentists believe that bruxism is usually brought on either by the stress of a modern lifestyle or as the result of dental misalignment. If the latter is the case, it is advisable to consult an orthodontist to rectify the issue and prevent further dental damage. If you believe that anxiety and negative emotions are causing your bruxism, seek to address the problem of stress in your life, or at least try to find effective coping mechanisms.

Regardless of whether you grind or clench, you can find effective relief with the use of a mouth guard. Depending on the severity of your habit, you may find that use of the mouth guard will eventually solve your problem completely, or you may need to use it in tandem with another kind of therapy. Either way, it is highly probable that your condition will improve dramatically with a good mouth guard.


Leave a Reply