Teeth Grinding

Woman with beautiful smile

Teeth Are Incredible

The outer enamel surface is the hardest and strongest substance the body can produce, and it is also beautiful in the way it reflects and refracts light. This beauty is why we appreciate smiles so much.

And of course our teeth also help us with the supremely useful task of chewing our food - so they are both beautiful and functional. This is why it’s so important to protect them. Well, how do we do that?

Basic hygiene (brushing and flossing) is what most of us consider when we think about a healthy mouth. And it’s true that if you do a good job keeping your teeth clean, you will not experience the decay that causes cavities which lead to fillings and crowns. In fact, if everyone did a good job brushing their teeth, there would be much less need for dentists!

Fortunately for dentists and dental hygienists, we don’t always do a great job of keeping our teeth clean, so we need to visit the dental office a few times a year to get a deep cleaning and sometimes have a tooth repaired with a filling or a crown.

Toothbrushes in cup

But did you know that good hygiene is only half of the battle in keeping your mouth healthy? The other critical part, unfortunately often neglected, is occlusal health.

The word occlusion refers to the way your upper and lower teeth come together, and it has a big impact on the health of your teeth, gums and the joint that connects your upper and lower jaw. In addition, poor occlusal health can lead to other issues such as headaches and sleep problems.

As long as your teeth aren’t badly out of alignment, maintaining good occlusal health shouldn’t be that hard. All you need to do is make sure your teeth don’t come together except when you’re chewing. Easy, right?

Woman grinding teeth

Unfortunately we don’t maintain the best occlusal health. We do things like clench or grind our teeth together when we’re angry or stressed - or even just as a general habit. Many of us do this while we’re sleeping, sometimes without even realizing it. Over time, these bad occlusal habits damage our teeth and the surrounding tissues.

Wearing a night guard dramatically reduces the damage from these occlusal habits, and is one of the most effective things you can do to promote good occlusal health. In fact, you can think of a night guard as basic maintenance for your occlusal health, just like brushing your teeth is basic maintenance for preventing decay and cavities.

So how do you know if a night guard is right for you? Well, if you ever wake up with pain in your teeth, gums or jaw - that’s a good sign that you are grinding or clenching your teeth at night.

Or maybe you are keeping someone else up at night with grinding your teeth. Noticing wear on the biting surfaces of your teeth is another sign. Or, perhaps your dentist has actually diagnosed you with having this problem.

What is "clenching?"

Clenching is keeping your teeth together with your jaw muscles activated. Clenching is harmful to occlusal health because it can cause cracks and fractures in your teeth, and also damages the ligaments and soft tissue that hold the teeth and gums together. This can actually cause the gums to recede or shrink away from the teeth. Gum recession can lead to greater sensitivity to hot and cold, makes teeth less stable in the mouth, increases the chances of decay and cavities, and can negatively impact appearance.

What is "grinding?"

Grinding your teeth involves all of the problems associated with clenching your teeth, but also includes rubbing the upper and lower teeth together like we do when we’re chewing. The tooth on tooth contact wears teeth down over time, just like rocks at the beach wear down into sand. This erodes the protective enamel layer that covers our teeth, which makes them weaker, more sensitive and unattractive.

You may have heard the term bruxism in the past - this is a medical term used to describe clenching and teeth grinding.

TMD/TMJ Disorder

You may have also heard the terms TMJ (Temporomandibular joint) or TMD (Temporomandibular disorder) in the context of jaw pain that is related to clenching and grinding. Both of these terms refer to problems with the hard and soft tissues that make up the joint connecting our upper and lower jaws.

Clenching and grinding are some of the main problems that cause issues with this joint. Sometimes this is just irritation of the muscles that keep your jaw together. Imagine holding a 5 pound weight over your head for 8 hours while you are sleeping; this is what your jaw is basically doing when you are clenching at night! This can create fatigue and pain, which in turn lead to a loss of sleep. Or, you may actually modify the bones or ligaments that make up the TMJ, which can cause audible clicking or popping, or may prevent you from fully opening your jaw.

Human tempormandibular joint illustration

Restorative Work

If you’ve ever had crowns or fillings, implants, or had other procedures like porcelain veneers, occlusal health is even more important. This is because all of these procedures involve placing an artificial material in the mouth to protect and/or improve the appearance of your teeth. The problem is that all of these materials flex and bend differently than your teeth when they are strained, as in chewing (or clenching and grinding).

Why does this matter? Well, crowns, veneers and other materials are stuck to the teeth using a type of bond or cement which gets strained each time your teeth come together. These cements work well if they’re only strained when you are chewing. But if you grind or clench your teeth, then the cement is under more strain much more often, increasing the probability it will fail. This means that your filling may need to be replaced, your crown may need to be cemented back in or you may ruin your beautiful (and really expensive!) porcelain veneers.

Cosmetic dental veneers illustration


There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep, and nothing more frustrating than not getting one. Unfortunately problems like clenching and teeth grinding can interfere with our sleep in a couple of different ways.

First, the grinding and clenching create discomfort, fatigue and pain that can disrupt the length or quality of our sleep. Second, awareness of our occlusal health issues and their consequences can actually create additional anxiety, which further interferes with the quality of sleep. Of course, losing sleep has plenty of other unfortunate side-effects - negatively affecting our mood, memory and concentration.

Woman sleeping

Occlusal Guards

Occlusal guards are an excellent way to help avoid health problems related to clenching and teeth grinding. They have always been effective, but the high cost and inconvenience of dentist-delivered night guards has limited the number of people that use them.

Now, you can get the same night guards you would get from the dentist directly from BITEKNIGHT for a fraction of the price. Visit the link below to order a kit, get your own custom-made night guard and avoid all of the problems associated with poor occlusal health.