Are you clenching your teeth?

The past year has come with many changes and increased stress levels for a lot of us. Not only did these life changes translate to our physical health but it also has had an impact on our oral health. One of the most common stress related things we have seen more frequently is teeth clenching.

Most commonly, we clench our teeth without even realizing it. It often occurs at night and can lead to cracked or chipped teeth, jaw pain, headaches, and can be accompanied by grinding. Clenching can also occur during the day while we are working and we still may not even be aware of it. Not only does this stress related condition cause potential pain and damage to the teeth and temporomandibular joint, but it can also result in the slow wear of the enamel (the outer layer of our teeth) as well as changes in the gums.

What can we do about these symptoms that some of us may have been experiencing more frequently over the past year? The first thing is stress reduction and being mindful of our habits. Are you waking up in a clenching positon? Are your teeth touching? If you often find yourself in a clenched position, try to be more mindful about closing your lips without touching your teeth. This will help keep you in a more relaxed position.

In addition, your dentist may recommend an occlusal guard. A occlusal guard is an excellent preventative option to add into your daily routine, most often worn at night. It is a clear splint similar to a retainer that covers the teeth and provides a barrier between the top and bottom teeth. It also serves as an even biting surface to help distribute pressure that we create while clenching. Other things like acupuncture, phyiscal therapy or even neuromodulators like botox can help with clenching as well. Your dentist may also recommend certain anti inflammatory medications if you are experiening a flare up of the temporomandibular joint. It is important to regularly follow up with your dental care provider if you think you are experiencing clenching to find out what treatment options are best for you!



Beddis H, Pemberton M, Davies S. Sleep bruxism: an overview for clinicians. Br Dent J. 2018 Sep 28;225(6):497-501. doi: 10.1038/sj.bdj.2018.757. Epub 2018 Sep 21. PMID: 30237554.



Sarah Schuback, DMD

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