Teeth Clenching: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments


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In the stillness of night, while the world sleeps, a common yet often overlooked phenomenon unfolds: teeth clenching, or bruxism. Driven by stress, subconscious habits, or other factors, this seemingly innocuous act can have far-reaching consequences, extending beyond the mouth to impact overall health and well-being.

Teeth clenching or bruxism, is a common problem that can occur at any time of day or night but is more common at night. Up to 20% of adults are thought to suffer from teeth clenching at some point in their lives. While the precise reason is unknown, it is frequently linked to stress, anxiety, misaligned teeth, and certain lifestyle behaviours.

But before moving forward, let’s understand the conceptual difference between them.

Characteristics Teeth Grinding Teeth Clenching
DefinitionInvoluntary or excessive grinding or gnashing of the teethInvoluntary or excessive holding of the teeth
Jaw movementYesNo
Tooth WearYesLess obvious
Other symptomsJaw Pain, Earaches, headaches, damaged teeth.Jaw pain, headaches and earaches
TreatmentMouthguard, stress management, biofeedbackMouthguard, stress management, biofeedback

Teeth clenching often occurs while you are awake, especially during periods of concentration, anger, or stress, and often occurs without a person being aware of it.


Understanding Teeth Clenching

Teeth clenching is the act of holding the teeth together and tightening the jaw muscles. It is often a subconscious habit that can occur at any time of day or night but is more common during sleep.


Signs – If you are Clenching Your Teeth

Many people with teeth clenching are not aware that they are doing it, especially if it happens when they are asleep. Here are some signs that may observe

  • Waking up with a sore jaw
  • Headaches
  • Earaches
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Worn down teeth
  • Chipped or cracked teeth


Causes of Teeth Clenching

The exact cause of teeth clenching is not fully understood. However, it is believed to involve a combination of physical, psychological and lifestyle factors, including:

  • Anxiety and Stress: One of the primary triggers for teeth clenching is stress and high stress levels can lead to muscle tension, which can result in the teeth grinding.
  • Malocclusion: When your teeth are misaligned, it can lead to an abnormal bite pattern. This misalignment can cause you to clench your teeth in an attempt to find a comfortable resting position.
  • Sleep disorder: Certain sleep disorders like sleep apnea, can be associated with teeth clenching. This is the body’s attempt to maintain an open airway during sleep can lead to clenching.
  • Lifestyle factors: certain habits like caffeine intake, alcohol consumption, and smoking can contribute to teeth clenching.
  • Medication: Some medications, particularly those that treat psychiatric disorders, can lead to teeth grinding as a side effect.
  • Genetics: Teeth clenching can run in the families and certain genes may make you more likely to develop it.
  • Tobacco: Tobacco can stimulate effects on the nervous system, potentially increasing muscle tension and leading to teeth clenching.


Treatment for Teeth Clenching

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for teeth clenching. The best treatment for you will depend on the underlying cause of your clenching. Treatment options may include:

  • Stress management: If stress or anxiety is causing you to clench your teeth, learning stress management techniques can help. This may include relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation.
  • Mouth guard: A mouth guard is a custom-made appliance that is worn over your teeth at night to protect them from grinding and clenching.
  • Medication: If your teeth clenching is caused by a medical condition, your doctor may prescribe medication to treat the underlying condition.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that can help you learn to control your subconscious muscle activity. This can be helpful for people with teeth clenching who are not able to control it consciously. It is a relatively new therapy for teeth clenching and shows positive outcomes.
  • Dental correction: In cases where misalignment is a contributing factor, orthodontic treatment or dental adjustments may be recommended.


Tips to Prevent Teeth Clenching

There are a few things you can do to help prevent teeth clenching:

  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.
  • Manage stress levels.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Make dental checkups and cleanings a part of your routine healthcare.



Teeth clenching can have serious consequences for both dental health and overall health. Recognising the causes and consequences of bruxism is the first step toward effective therapy.

If you feel you’re clenching your teeth, see a dentist or healthcare professional at Complete Smiles Dental Clinic, who can give you personalised advice and treatment alternatives. Taking preventative measures to reduce teeth clenching can result in greater dental health and a higher quality of life.

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