Westport Plaza Dental
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Stressed Out! What You Need to Know About Grinding and Clenching

October 1, 2020
Posted By: Jodi Turner
Stop Bruxism written on a black board

Stressed Out!  What You Need to Know About Grinding and Clenching


Recently the Washington Post wrote an article on the effect the pandemic is having on teeth.  A dentist in the article states, “That since the pandemic started, she has seen a surge in problems related to tooth grinding and jaw-clenching.” This got our doctors thinking.  How many of our patients coming in are experiencing the same thing?  In this post we will outline some of the symptoms of Bruxism, answer some of your questions and offer a solution. 

How would you know if you had Bruxism?  If we look up the definition of bruxism it tells us that it is a condition in which you grind, gnash or clench your teeth.  This action happens to individuals whether they are awake or asleep.  Below is a list of symptoms our doctors like to check for if they suspect a patient has bruxism. 

  1. Patient states they have frequent headaches
  2. Jaw, neck or face pain or soreness
  3. Sleep disruption
  4. Pain that feels like an earache, though it’s actually not your ear
  5. Flattened, chipped, fractured or loose teeth. 
  6. Worn enamel


A lot of times our patients recognize these symptoms before they are brought up to the doctor.  Often times it is a loved one that brings it to our attention.  A common statement is, “I can hear your teeth grinding at night”.  Do you have any of these symptoms? 


I think I have Bruxism what now!

If you think you have Bruxism the best thing to do is to schedule an appointment with your dentist.  I know you probably have questions about starting this process to relief of your symptoms.  Here is what our doctors had to say.

What can a patient do at home to relieve symptoms until they can get in for their appointment?

Dr. Scott, “Patients should use a warm moist compress on the masseter muscle (muscles that runs up and down near the jaw joint).  Patient should also gently massage the masseter and temporalis.  (Jaw and temple area). 

Dr. Mace, “Honestly, some over the counter medicines like Advil, ibuprofen and Aleve work fairly well for muscle soreness and headaches brought on by teeth grinding.  These medicines, known as anti-inflammatories, tend to help patients get through the tougher times if their symptoms are really flaring up.  Dr. Scott’s recommendation of a warm moist compress repeated as necessary is also a great home remedy. “


Should a patient keep a log of their symptoms and when they occur?

Dr. Scott, “Yes, for example if they wake up in the morning and notice symptoms.  Write them down.”

Dr. Mace, “I think that is a really good idea.  Some people’s symptoms are much worse in the morning, because they have been grinding or clenching at night when they sleep.  Other times it can be after a hard day at work.  Also, I have seen a lot of people who drive a lot for their jobs who clench or grind when they are behind the wheel. Keeping a journal even on your phone is a really good idea because we can look it over with the patient and see when and how often symptoms occur. “

What should I expect my first appointment?

Dr. Scott, “We will evaluate by having you do different movements with your jaw, take measurements and discuss symptoms to determine the most appropriate guard for you.  Upper and lower impressions will need to be taken.  This ensures that the night guard fits the teeth properly”

Dr. Mace, “The first appointment we will typically perform a TMJ (jaw joint) exam and see where your symptoms are coming from.  Is it both sides of your jaw, or just one side?  Also, we will examine your teeth to see if you have signs of grinding or clenching.   People who grind their teeth tend to develop what we call wear facets or areas on their back teeth that are flatter than they should be.  Depending on your symptoms and after talking it over with the patient, we will recommend a certain type of occlusal guard. “

How do you determine what appliance is right for the patient?

Dr. Scott, “Appliances are based on the patient’s symptoms.  If the patient has acute pain and headaches an NTI would be an option.  If the patient has noticeable wear and abfractions (notches on root of the tooth along the gumline) a full guard is recommended.

Dr. Mace, “Depending on your symptoms and what kind of signs your teeth exhibit what kind of guard you need.  People who grind their teeth around at night tend to do better with a more traditional full coverage guard.  People who clench or have more significant pain in their jaws may do better with an NTI (smaller guard worn on front teeth only).  Our team has over 30 years of experience treating TMJ disorder and helping people who clench and grind.  We are here to help.”

What can I expect my home care and therapy routine to be once the appliance has been received?

Dr. Scott, “Appliances should be cleaned daily with toothbrush and hydrogen peroxide.  Patients might need to visit for adjustments to the appliance periodically. 

Dr. Mace, “You will need to clean your occlusal guard everyday with soft soap and warm water.  Also, some adjustment appointments will be needed to be sure the appliance is fitting properly and doing its job.  I like to compare it to getting a new pair of eyeglasses, you will probably need a couple of appointments for follow ups to be sure it is helping and fitting properly.  Again, we are here to help so making sure the appliance fits well and is comfortable, and the patient is wearing it is key.”

Is there anything else you would like your patients to know?

Dr. Scott, “Night guards only work if you wear them consistently.  It can take some getting used to.  Also, patients will produce more saliva for a couple of weeks.”

Dr. Mace, “Teeth grinding and clenching is really common, especially during stressful times like the year 2020 has seen!  Most people probably do some sort of clenching or grinding of their teeth either at night or during a day a bit.  When it gets out of hand, like when you get muscle or jaw soreness or if you notice in the morning that your jaws hurt or your teeth feel achy then its time to consider an occlusal guard or appliance to help. 

We hope this blog gave you some helpful information.  The subject of bruxism is vast.  We didn’t even talk about the effects it can have on your gum health! 

If you would like to set up an appointment please call our office or you can request an appointment through our website. 

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