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

Jaw Clenching Teeth and Teeth Grinding are Often Caused By the Same Problem

Jaw clenching and teeth grinding are both common manifestations of a condition known as “bruxism”. Bruxism occurs unconsciously, and can happen both while you’re awake or asleep. Waking bruxism is characterized by clenching the jaw tightly. During sleep, tooth on tooth grinding is more common though night jaw clenching 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 while they’re awake. Jaw clenching and grinding are not mutually exclusive and can occur together in some patients. The causes of Bruxism can vary depending on whether it occurs during the day or at night.

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Waking Bruxism Versus Sleep Bruxism

Stress is still the #1 reason most dentists and researchers in the field believe we perform the actions of jaw clenching and teeth grinding. However, some current medical research suggests that jaw clenching and teeth grinding during sleep may have a different set of causes than waking bruxism.

Waking bruxism is generally associated with stress.

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 is almost always correlated with high stress levels. This can range from stress due to a demanding job, financial problems or serious mood disorders like Panic Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. In many cases, when the psychological effects of anxiety or stress are addressed and treated, the grinding or clenching will subside.

Sleeping bruxism may be more enigmatic.

It’s commonly associated with tooth grinding (though jaw clenching can occur either in place of grinding or in conjunction with), which results from rhythmic jaw motions that reflect a “misfiring” of motions associated with chewing food. Teeth grinding during sleep has been shown to occur during “micro-arousal,” when a person 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?

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

Grinding your teeth is often revealed by symptoms including:

  • Excessive wear and tear on teeth. Grinding is harder on teeth than jaw clenching and the mechanical forces involved in repetitive grinding motions often causes pathological changes in the structure of your teeth. The enamel is the first part to be worn down and over time the dentin 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 is not only be bad for dental health but can impact the muscles of the face and jaw. Some of the most common symptoms resulting from clenching the jaw include:

  • Tenderness, pain or fatigue in the jaw muscles. This is especially apparent while chewing. Continuous jaw clenching strains the muscles causing them to become tired and sore just like any other muscle. This can make chewing difficult and even painful.
  • Tenderness, pain or fatigue in the jaw muscles. This is especially apparent while chewing. Continuous jaw clenching strains the muscles causing them to become tired and sore just like any other muscle. This can make chewing difficult and even painful.
  • 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. Pronounced jaw muscles can lead to an unwanted “square-jawed” appearance.
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. Both can create different sets of symptoms in the teeth and jaw muscles. Clenching is more common than grinding in people with bruxism attributed to 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 discussed 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. Get started right here.

How to stop clenching the jaw:

If you’re clenching the jaw during the night while sleeping, it is highly unlikely that you can stop the tightening and clenching of the jaw in the moment because you’re dead asleep.

However, you can work to put yourself in a state of ease before bed so that it might not happen. Two big things to say no to before bed.

Alcohol and caffeine.

Staring at the screen on your phone, television or video games.

Try this instead.

Play relaxing music, read a good book, make your bed a comfortable and clean place. Practice relaxing your face and WEAR YOUR DENTAL NIGHT GUARD. See below to learn more on dental night guards!

Not all night guards are created equal and sometimes finding the right night guard for you can be a process

The medical term for teeth grinding is bruxism and is usually coupled with clenching your jaw. The grinding is generally harmless at first but its continual occurrence can damage your dental health and cause pain. The first signs are usually a sensation of pain on one side of the jaw or general teeth soreness. You can be grinding or clenching and have no clue. Did you get that? No obvious signs. The grinding can also be a bother to your sleeping partner. Causes include daily anxieties, stress or conditions like sleep apnea.

Sore jaws and constant headaches can be tell-tale signs.

Loved ones might inform you of symptoms as it usually occurs during sleep. Grinding can cause fracturing and loosening of teeth. Night guards are used as a common preventative solution. Dental night guards do not STOP teeth grinding but protect the teeth from damage and lessen facial pain and headaches resulting from 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 and choosing the best night guard is paramount to your health and comfort. Let’s first go over the not-so-great: Stock mouth guards 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 mouth guards can be purchased from drug stores. These guards are pre-formed and made to a universal fit. It is impossible to find a perfect match for your specific dental pattern with this type of guard. They are made of polyvinyl, plastic or rubber material. Even worse with most store bought guards you have to close the jaw to hold them in, which makes it hard to talk or breathe and it increases the likelihood of gagging on them.. 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.

First you place the appliance in hot water so that the thermoplastic softens. Then you shape it around your teeth using pressure from the tongue and clean fingers. Finally when the plastic cools it will harden again leaving you with a close approximation of your teeth. These are better than the off the shelf night guards but the material is not very durable. It is easy to grind through the guard and still bulky and uncomfortable. If you are grinding through the guard at night you are most likely eating the thermoplastic these guards are made of without even knowing it. Gross.

Custom Made Night Guards 

These cost more than a store bought guard because they are the top tier in mouth protection.

A dentist first makes an impression of your teeth on a special material. The impression is used to create a custom fitting night guard that is unique to the individual. This is done at a professional lab or by the dentist or certified lab technician.

Since they are specifically suited for your teeth they offer the best protection with no risk of gagging. The most common problem with these types of guards is that they can feel either too tight or too bulky. A reputable dental lab will work patiently with you until you get a perfect fit. All that is required of you is patience on your end 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

dental impression kit for night guard to reduce clenching teeth, jaw, and grinding

You can 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 cost a fortune in repairs at the dentist. It is much easier to save yourself the trouble by choosing the best night guard to alleviate this 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.

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 is that once you’ve already started the biting it can grow into a painful habit. The solution to fend off any further harm to your sensitive organ and surrounding tissue is to wear tailor made night mouth guards on both the upper and lower teeth.

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

You should first get a clear understanding of two things: What is a mouth guard for teeth grinding and what is its purpose? A mouth guard for teeth grinding (also known as a night guard) is an oral appliance for the purpose of treating protecting the teeth as well as preventing dental problems. As the name suggests, a night guard is a mouth guard that is worn during sleep. However, a night guard can be worn for daytime use. Usually a thin, unobtrusive 1mm night guard would be worn during the day.

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

Now to answer your question.

If you are clenching your teeth during the day, there is a good chance you are clenching and grinding your teeth during sleep. The signs are not always obvious, even to someone sleeping right next to you.. 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 trusted solution.

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.

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. The best mouth guards are custom-fitted from a dental impression of your teeth. A custom-fitted mouth guard offers the utmost protection and comfort for those with teeth clenching issues.Generic mouth guards will not fit as well or as comfortably as a custom-fitted mouth guard.

Finding the right night guard type for clenched teeth

You can find night guards sold online but how do you find a legitimate company that offers night guards to make sure that you get the right product. One neat thing about our company is our 100% satisfaction guarantee. We will work with you to find the right night guard at the thickness which best suits you and we won’t stop until you and your mouth are happy!