Clenching vs. Grinding Your Teeth

Sometimes patients experience jaw pain, soreness, tightness in the jaw, or tooth sensation in the morning.  All of these are symptoms of a larger condition known as bruxism.  Most people that have bruxism are unaware that they suffer from the condition because it typically occurs while they sleep.  Two of the main practices associated with bruxism are clinching and grinding.  But how can you tell which you are doing if you have symptoms of bruxism?  Below is a brief of the information we share with our patients at Yuba City Orthodontics.

Differences Between Teeth Clenching and Grinding

Outside of having someone observe you in your sleep, the best way to identify if you are clenching or grinding is with the help of a dental professional.  Although both issues are bad for your oral health, each one leads to different dental problems.

Jaw Clenching

Clenching has short and long-term effects on the facial and jaw muscles.  Hence, symptoms associated with continual clenching include:

  • Muscle tenderness in the jaw and facial muscles (sometimes patient feel as though they have been chewing all night). The strain on these muscles makes eating, talking, and even opening the mouth wide very difficult.
  • Headaches and facial pain that occur near the temples are commonplace with jaw clenching. As time progresses, headaches tend to become more frequent and stronger when diagnosis and treatment are
  • Like any muscle that is continually worked, the size of the muscle increases. This could lead to a squaring of the jaw as the muscle grows.  Some patients find this look to be unattractive on

Teeth Grinding

Patients that grind their teeth often deal with any of the following symptoms:

  • Significant wear on teeth. The continuous rubbing of the teeth against each other quickly breaks down the enamel.  Next, the substructures such as dentin and pulp are exposed.
  • Tooth sensitivities significantly increase as the dentin and pulp are exposed. It can become unbearable to drink hot or cold liquids.

Discovering which aspect of bruxism is affecting you is an important step in alleviating the problem.  The next step is to seek treatment.

Dr. Michael Larson DDS MSD

1215 Plumas Street, Suite 500
Yuba City, CA 95991

(530) 674-5047

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