July 14, 2023
What is Grinding and Clenching?
Grinding and clenching….sound like the newest dance craze? Unfortunately, these two oral habits are responsible for the highest amount of tooth loss throughout life. What’s more, these words are often commonly associated with the three most dreaded letters in dentistry, “TMJ”.
Grinding is usually associated with sleep time. While our bodies shut down and refresh, we routinely dream. As you might imagine, some of these dreams can be quite stressful. Grinding involves squeezing the mouth muscles like you are biting into food, and then sliding the teeth from side to side. Often very loud and obvious to those who are awake, this process causes premature wear of teeth that are touching. Jaw joint stress from this action can also lead to pain and loud joint noises. Although short periods of grinding are inconsequential, longer periods can lead to loss of the outside and inside layer of tooth structure as well as prolonged joint symptoms.
Clenching can commonly occur during waking hours too. Described as strong biting without food in the mouth, the habit contributes to the above symptoms. As this falls under conscious behavior, clenching is thought to be easier to control.
Treatment for both includes focusing on both the cause and result. As stress is a primary factor, stress relief treatments are important. The dentist also plays a large role in helping to manage these habits. Worn teeth sometimes need to be restored and “bite guard” appliances can be fabricated to protect the remaining tooth structure during susceptible times.
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