Teeth Grinding vs. Clenching

Diana Beverly Uy, DDM
TMJ Specialist
Craniodontics-Biofunctional & Dental Sleep Medicine
July 29, 2019, 18:20

As life gets stressful for many, different coping strategies develop. When a person thinks, often times, we tend to clench our teeth together. Teeth clenching is one coping strategy of the human body that results in improved focus and concentration, thus, explaining why some children tend to bite on a pencil or chew gum when studying.

The top and bottom teeth pressing on each other is called clenching. Now, when this clenching moves side-to-side or forward-backward, it results to teeth grinding or medically called as dental bruxism.

Both clenching and grinding are voluntary movements that are okay during the day.

However, it becomes a problem when teeth clenching or grinding happens during the resting hours, such as during sleep.

When a balanced bite is not achieved during the day, our brain signals the chewing muscles to go to work with one instruction – to grind everything on its path.

Our brain is one powerful command center, and it wants all of our teeth to touch at maximum contact point (yes! that precise), all at the same time. Our face and neck are all covered or attached to the chewing muscles. When this balanced bite, where teeth contact is maximized, is not achieved during the day, our brain signals the chewing muscles to work with one instruction – to grind everything on its path.

If you experience waking up with a slight soreness on the face or cheek muscles, then a dentist visit is highly recommended. Over time, this excessive teeth clenching and frequent teeth grinding can wear out your teeth enamel and consequently put tremendous micro -pressure on your jaw joint.

A nightguard is usually prescribed to protect your teeth from being worn down. But, you can find out the root cause of your teeth grinding by scheduling a 30-minute bite assessment with a TMJ specialist!

Layers of our face *
* Our face is covered with muscles which gives shape to our cheeks and chin.