“What’s the Difference Between Jaw Clenching and Teeth Grinding?”

Clenching teeth and Grinding are Often Caused By the Same Problem

Jaw clenching and teeth grinding are both common manifestations of a condition known as “bruxism”. Bruxism usually happens unconsciously, and can occur either while you’re awake, or while you’re asleep. So what’s the difference between jaw clenching and grinding? Waking bruxism is usually characterized by clenching the jaw tightly, although teeth grinding may also occur. During sleep, actual tooth on tooth grinding is more common though night jaw clenching still occurs in many people. Both types of bruxism can cause damage to the teeth and jaw, as well as facial muscle strain. Because bruxism is usually unconscious, most people don’t realize they’re doing it, even if it happens while they’re awake. clenching teeth and grinding may occur together in some patients, whereas others exhibit only one behavior. It’s quite individually variable. Bruxism may also have different causes, depending on whether it occurs during the day or at night.

Waking Bruxism versus Sleep Bruxism

Current medical research suggests that jaw clenching and teeth grinding during sleep could have a different set of causes than waking bruxism. Waking bruxism is nearly always associated with stress, although it can also accompany the use of stimulant drugs like caffeine, ephedrine, or ADHD medication. As much as 20% of the U.S. adult population grinds their teeth or clenches their jaw when they’re awake, and it’s almost always correlated with high stress levels. This can range from stress due to a demanding job or financial problems, to serious mood disorders like Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Panic Disorder. In many cases, when the psychological effects of anxiety or stress are addressed and treated, the grinding or clenching will subside.

Sleeping bruxism is a bit more enigmatic. It’s more associated with tooth grinding, which results from rhythmic jaw motions that may reflect a “misfiring” of motions associated with chewing food. Teeth grinding during sleep has been shown to occur during “micro-arousal,” when a person briefly moves closer to consciousness during sleep. Although this rarely causes the person to wake up completely, EEG measurements of electrical activity in the brain have confirmed these brief changes in the level of consciousness. Sleeping bruxism is often found in people who also have sleep apnea, and its causes are still not yet fully understood.

What’s the Difference between Jaw Clenching and Teeth Grinding Symptoms?

Because most people with bruxism aren’t aware that they have it, the best way to identify it is often to look for symptoms. Jaw clenching and teeth grinding are both bad for the jaws and teeth, but cause slightly different problems.

Grinding your teeth is often revealed by symptoms including:

  • Excessive wear and tear on teeth. Grinding is harder on the teeth than jaw clenching, and the mechanical forces involved in the repetitive grinding motions often causes pathological changes in the structure of the teeth. The enamel is the first part to be worn down, but over time, the dentin material underneath can become exposed and eroded. Teeth can also fracture from stress, especially in people with dental restorations like fillings and crowns.
  • Increased tooth sensitivity. As the enamel and dentin of the teeth are worn down, the nerves become more sensitive and more exposed. This can cause tooth pain, especially when drinking cold liquids.

Jaw clenching can not only be bad for dental health, but it also impacts the muscles of the face and jaw (short term & long term). Some of the most common symptoms resulting from clenching the jaw include:

  • Tenderness, pain, or fatigue in the jaw muscles. This is usually especially apparent while chewing. Continuous jaw clenching strains the muscles, causing them to become tired and sore, just like any other muscle. This makes chewing difficult, and even painful.
  • Headaches. Stained facial muscles are a common cause of headaches, usually in the temples. Frequent tension headaches can be a sign of bruxism.
  • Masseter Hypertrophy. This is a medical term for the enlargement of the jaw muscles over time. Jaw clenching “works out” the muscles, causing them to increase in size over time. When it’s pronounced, it can lead to a “square-jawed” appearance, which many people find to be an  unappealing appearance for themselves.
jaw clenching can build up the masseter

Enlargement of the masseter muscle can sometimes be visible in jaw clenchers

Although jaw clenching and teeth grinding are both forms of bruxism, they don’t always occur together. They can create slightly different sets of symptoms in the teeth and jaw muscles, and clenching seems more common than grinding in people whose bruxism arises from anxiety or stress. Tension headaches may be relieved with the use of a dental night guard.

“What is the best night guard to wear for teeth grinding or jaw clenching?”

Looking for the best night guard for teeth grinding? We have discuss several dental night guards types in more depth but here’s our quick answer:

Custom fitted night guards (made specifically from your unique dental anatomy and fabricated using a high heat/high pressure thermoforming machine) are by far the best night guards available today for clenching teeth. So start there or rather here.

Not all night guards (even custom fitted ones) are created equal and sometimes finding the right night guard for you can be a process

Teeth grinding is medically dubbed as bruxism and is usually coupled with clenching your teeth or jaw. The grinding is generally harmless at first but its continual occurrence can be damaging to your dental health as well as cause a lot of discomfort and pain. The first signs are usually a sensation of pain on one side of the jaw or you may notice some general teeth soreness. Sometimes you can be grinding or clenching and have no clue. That is right, no obvious signs. The grinding can also be a bother to your sleeping partner. It might be caused by daily anxieties, stress or conditions like sleep apnea.

Sore jaws and constant headaches can be tell-tale signs. Loved ones can also inform you of the said problem as it usually occurs in ones sleep. Grinding can cause fracturing and loosening of teeth.  There is much demand to find a solution to this problem. Night guards are used as a common preventative solution. Please note dental night guards do not STOP teeth grinding but they do protect the teeth from further damage and lessen or stop any facial pain and headaches one may be experiencing as a result of the grinding & clenching. These are protective devices that work by preventing the upper teeth from grinding with the lower ones.

There are many types of night guards available on the market and choosing the best night guard is paramount to your health (not to mention comfort). Let’s first go over the not-so-great: Stock mouthguards and boil and bites.

Drug Store Night Guards

These mass produced night guards and they are very affordable, but often uncomfortable.

A large variety of mouthguards can be purchased from drug stores. These guards are preformed and made to a universal fit, hence ready to wear. As such, it is unlikely that you will find a perfect match for your specific dental pattern. They are made of polyvinyl, plastic or rubber material. Even worse with most of these store bought guards you have to close the jaw to hold them in, you might gag on them or find it hard to talk or breath. They have a reputation for being bulky and uncomfortable. Which makes them one of the worst solutions for clenching teeth and grinding issues.

Boil and Bite Night Guards

The boil and bite night guards are made of a thermoplastic material that is sensitive to heat changes. You will need to first form the appliance. This appliance is usually soft in nature. First, place it in hot water so that the thermoplastic softens. It is then possible to shape it around teeth using pressure from the tongue and clean fingers. These are better than the off the shelf night guards, but material is not very durable, easy to grind through the guard, and still bulky/uncomfortable. If you are grinding through the guard at night you are most likely consuming the thermoplastic that these guards are made of without even knowing it.

Custom Made Night Guards 

While these may cost a more than a store bought guard they are the top tier in mouth protection.

Traditionally, a dentist first makes an impression of your teeth on a special material. The impression is used by a mold to create a custom fitting night guard. This might be done at a professional lab or in the dentist’s lab by a qualified and certified lab technician. The technician is given specific detailed instructions.

Since they are specifically suited for your uniqueness and individuality, these night guards offer the best protection and are very comfortable. They fit precisely and therefore offer the best protection with no risk of gagging and easy talking and breathing. The most common problem with these types of guards is that the first custom made guard might not work for you. Most dental labs will work patiently with you until you get the most perfect fit. All that is required of you is patience and the end product will make your life easier, better and healthier.

Because of the time and effort taken to customize this guard, it is more expensive than the others but the benefits outweigh the costs.

Do-it-yourself teeth molding kit & online dental labs

Now, you dental impression kit for night guard to reduce clenching teeth, jaw, and grindingcan purchase the best custom made dental night guards direct from our night guard lab. Use our easy mail order system to take your dental impression without ever having to leave the comfort of your home!

If not dealt with,  bruxism can lead you to spend a fortune at the dentist’ in an effort to repair the damage through fillings and crowns. It is much better to save yourself this trouble by choosing the best night guard that alleviates this unfortunate disorder. When choosing a night guard, you should look for durability, ease of cleaning, comfort, safe materials and one that does not impede breathing or talking. A good choice will be the end of the risk of tooth damage.

Strange but worth mentioning

Do you bite your tongue or gums in your sleep? Tongue biting or gum biting can cause a lot of irritation and damage to those sensitive areas. What’s worse- once you’ve already started the biting it can grow into a strange and painful habit. The solution to fend off any further harm to your sensitive fleshy, muscular organ and/or surrounding tissue is to wear soft, tailor made to your precise dental physiology night mouth guards on both the upper and lower teeth.

I’m Clenching My Teeth During The Day. Do I Need A Night Guard? 

If you have found yourself searching for the answer to this question you should first get a clear understanding of two things: What is a mouth guard for teeth grinding and what is it’s purpose? A mouth guard for teeth grinding (also known as a night guard) is an appliance that is inserted in the mouth for the purpose of treating protecting the teeth as well as preventing dental and oral problems. There are many different kinds of mouth guards. This article will focus on one particular type of mouth guard and that is the night guard. As the name suggests, a night guard is a mouth guard that is worn during nighttime while sleeping. However, a night guard can be worn for daytime use. Usually a thin 1mm night guard would be made to be worn during the day so that it is unobtrusive in the mouth.

why wear a dental night guard?

A custom night guard is usually custom-fitted to its user. It is commonly made from a hard or soft durable plastic. A night guard can act as a shock absorbent for the muscles in the jaw and the face. This is important since tension in the muscles of the jaw and the face can cause other more serious health problems such as headaches and tenderness and soreness in the face. Constant teeth grinding and clenching teeth can also cause chipping and cracking of the teeth.

Now to answer your question.

If your clenching your teeth during the day, there is a good chance that you are also clenching and grinding your teeth when you are sleeping. It is hard to tell ,of course, if you are grinding or clenching your teeth at night especially if you sleep alone in a room. Even if you are sleeping with someone, he or she will not be able to tell if you are clenching and grinding your teeth at night if that person is fast asleep. We may actually be seeing a promising new invention in the near future. There is a new sleep device app on the market that has been getting a lot of attention & can allegedly help identify if you are grinding or clenching at night. Hopefully, this will be a great way to detect & gain clarity towards the enigma that is bruxism.  If you are already suffering from symptoms such as constant headaches and facial tenderness, then those symptoms are more likely the result of bruxism. Wearing a night guard is one of the things that you can do to solve the problem.

You can wear a day guard

ultra thin day guard for teeth grinding

If you feel teeth or facial soreness from grinding or clenching teeth during the day, consider wearing a very thin hard 1mm guard. This will protect your teeth while remaining inconspicuous. An ultra thin clear guard is generally of a hard splint material and should be custom made from a dental impression of your teeth for a supreme fit.


Of course, it is never wise to self-diagnose. If you suspect that you are suffering from bruxism then you should visit your dentist immediately. Only a trained professional will be able to properly diagnose your condition and prescribe solutions to it. The best mouth guards are also those that are custom-fitted for you based on a dental impression of your teeth. A custom-fitted mouth guard offers utmost protection and comfort for those with issues around clenching teeth. It is possible to find generic mouth guards in the market but they may not fit as well or as comfortably as a custom-fitted mouth guard. To create these custom-fitted mouthguards, a dental impression of the patient’s teeth is taken.

I’m clenching teeth during the day.

Do I need a night guard? Now that you know the answer to your question, your next task is to find the right night guard type for you. You can find night guards sold online but you need to find a legitimate company that offer night guards to make sure that you get the right product. One neat thing about our company is that we will work with you to find the right night guard for you and you have the option to choose how thin or thick you would like your day/night guard to be!

 

Sentinel dental impression kit