Tooth grinding and clenching


Teeth grinding, gnashing or clenching is a relatively common behavior, affecting around 10% of all adults and up to 15% of the children in the US. The technical name for this condition is bruxism.

Tooth grinding is typically an unconscious condition, where chewing muscles work extra hard to keep upper and lower teeth in contact for long periods during the night and/or day. This is an unnatural condition, putting all oral structures (teeth, bones, ligaments, joints and muscles) under enormous amounts of pressure, with the potential to cause serious problems for both oral and general health. Many people that grind their teeth suffer with headaches and migraine.

Many people who have night bruxism are not aware of the problem until complications develop.

Worn out teeth, bruxism, tooth grinding

Worn out teeth due to tooth grinding


  • Noise due to the grinding of teeth during the night, usually reported by a partner or roommate
  • Worn out, flat teeth, which can lead to loss of vertical dimension in the face (shorter face, makes the person look older people)
  • Chipped, fractured or loose teeth
  • Abfraction, tooth sensitivity
  • Tense or tired chewing muscles
  • Problems in the jaw joint
  • Headaches, migraine, neck, head and back pain
  • Earache
  • Disrupted sleep



Stress, anxiety, depression, caffeine and nicotine are among some lifestyle factors that can worsen bruxism. However, one of the most common triggers for this abnormal behavior is a bad bite. It seems like the body triggers the teeth to grind as an attempt to grind away the interferences that keep the bite out of balance.

There is a long list of alterations in the position of teeth and jaws that can lead to an uneven bite. It can also result from fillings, crowns or bridges.

Recent studies have linked bruxism to sleep apnea, a disorder where breathing is interrupted several times during the night due to obstruction of the airway. When breathing stops in sleep apnea patients, the brain triggers teeth grinding in order to open the airway and reset the breathing. These studies suggest that treatment for sleep apnea can solve the problem of teeth grinding.



Since stress and anxiety play an important role for tooth grinding, relaxation techniques can be helpful in treating this condition.

A custom-made mouthguard is usually part of the treatment plan, since it protects the teeth from wear and helps improve the distribution of forces to jaws and muscles.

Bruxism can result in flat, worn-out teeth. If this is the case, the loss of vertical dimension affects the whole face and the head, requiring restoration to increase the length of the face, which usually results in a younger appearance and improves migraines, headaches and pain.



Bite issues need to be addressed because they can aggravate bruxism, sleep apnea and many other issues in the mouth and in the rest of the body.

Orthodontic treatment can easily correct the position of misaligned teeth and jaws to allow for a more balanced bite. If bruxism is associated with sleep apnea, expansion of the arches and creation of adequate space for the tongue is usually very beneficial for both conditions.

Misalignment of teeth and jaws and lack of space in the mouth are problems that can be easily corrected through orthodontic treatment.

The most popular way of doing it is through clear aligner therapy. It has many advantages, such as good cosmetics and convenience; these plastic trays are made of clear plastic and can be removed with ease.

If you think you might suffer from tooth grinding, get an appointment now. Your dentist can help improve your oral and general health by correcting your bite.