Clenching and Grinding Teeth (Bruxism)
People can clench and grind their teeth unconsciously both while awake or asleep; however, sleep-related clenching and grinding are often the bigger problem because they are harder to control.
Occasional clenching and grinding do not usually cause harm, but when they become regular habits, clenching and grinding can put pressure on your teeth, the temporal-mandibular joints (TMJ) and jaw muscles potentially causing permanent damage in one or all of these structures simultaneously. For example, chronic teeth clenching and grinding can result in accelerated wear, fracturing, loosening and possible loss of teeth. There are many potential symptoms, some of which are uncomfortable jaw pain, headaches, or ear pain.
Matching wear patterns in teeth show that grinding has occurred and also show the extent of jaw movement during grinding. It is very surprising to patients when they see how far a person moves the jaw into such a non-functional position while grinding teeth. In the photographs and video below, note the wear at the canine teeth caused by grinding as the lower jaw moves sidways.
If detected early, a very conservative custom mouth guard can be made to protect your teeth and relax the jaw muscles to a more neutral state. This preserves your tooth structure saving you the need for potential extensive future dental treatment.