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What does it mean to "grind your teeth"?
A sleeping woman

Grinding your teeth is an involuntary, repetitive jaw-muscle activity characterized by clenching or grinding of the teeth and/or by bracing or thrusting of the lower jaw. It can occur during sleep or wakefulness.

Teeth grinding is a common problem, with estimates of 8–31% of the general population affected by the condition.

What problems can clenching and grinding teeth cause?

Depending on severity, symptoms may range from none, to some or all of:

  • hypersensitive teeth
  • generalized gum recession
  • aching hyperactive jaw muscles
  • restricted jaw opening
  • headaches
  • damage to dental filling and crowns
  • tooth wear and loss
How can I stop grinding my teeth?

The typical treatment for night time grinding is to provide a “night guard” or dental guard made of a protective material that sits between the upper and lower jaw, preventing the teeth from making contact. While this doesn’t completely stop the activity, it reduces or eliminates the resultant damage.

There is a fairly strong link between psychosocial factors such as stress being a cause of teeth grinding. Some psychosocial treatments to help reduce voluntary grinding during the day may include relaxation techniques, stress management, and cognitive behavioural therapy.


Does my insurance cover a night guard?

Coverage will vary between policies, but most insurance plans will cover night guards. We can help you determine what is covered by your policy when you come in for an appointment.

This Page Has 12 Questions

The information provided below does not constitute dental advice and is general in nature. It does not take into account your personal dental health and should not be acted on without consultation with a certified dental professional.

Bathurst Centre Dental Care accepts no liability for any loss or injury arising out of the use of this website or reliance on the content of this website.

  1. I have a complicated question. I had a gum graft end of April. I am 45 and have no problems with teeth moving ever. (except at christmas. I bumped front lower teeth. They were sore. So, to stabilize my teeth, the dentist cemented the 4 middle teeth to my retaining bar that I’ve had since a teen. One tooth was touching upper for a week. Then back to normal. That is, until right after my gum surgery, at end of april. That same tooth started touching the upper again. (The two teeth worked on were actually the two next to it). I told the surgeon. So he released the touching tooth from the bar, hoping the upper tooth would push it back on its own. I agreed at the time. But I regret it now because I don’t believe that tooth was ahead on its own. I think the whole row has sunk forward. Regardless, I waited 2-3 weeks as he rec’d to see if things would settle. They’ve only gotten worse. So, I went back and they said, tmj maybe, grinding probably, so we could make a night guard. Somehow we ended up with the wait and see approach for another 3 weeks. In total, since the surgery it has been roughly 11 weeks and I’ve had zero real help. What’s happened too, is that my bite fits better in the morning ( i must clench it back into place at night?), then it moves once I’m up.
    That one tooth isn’t just touching. It’s hitting the upper tooth and being bashed back. This of course alarms me as roots can be damaged this way). And over time, when my tooth starts to touch in the morning, my back left molars are also not fitting. As well, when eating, my jaw is starting to clunk a little when the teeth are all out. Well I believe, with the surgery and prior trauma, the whole front row with the bar has shifted slightly forward. I have a very unforgiving bite. So the littlest movement of teeth can be felt there. They are saying tmj etc… I am saying… my lower teeth have shifted forward and perhaps if the 4 middle ones are released from the bar, they could settle back?
    At any rate. My bite is totally out and is being ruined, and I just want some kind of opinion because the surgeon just keeps repeating that the gum graft could not have moved my teeth. I’m not trying to blame him even, I’m just trying to tell him that the surgery was the catalyst for this movement (likely due to the small trauma at christmas). But all I get back so far is tmj and night guards. How am I supposed to even make a night guard to keep my teeth in place when my teeth are currently out of place? That makes no sense. I just want my damn teeth back where they have been for 45 years. So frustrated at this point.
    Thanks for any opinions, though I know it’s hard to give without physically seeing a patient.

    1. Hi Jo, thanks for taking the time to detail your situation, which is by far the most complex we’ve received to date. Unfortunately, there isn’t much I can tell you without a thorough examination and even then, the answers to your questions may be beyond my expertise as a general dentist. Occlusion, or the way our teeth bite together, tends to be dynamic and changes over time just like the rest of our body. You may need to ask your dentist for a referral to a prosthodontist and/or orthodontist to see if they have any insights or ideas to make your bite more comfortable.

  2. Hello i had some fillings done back in july, and have been back 4x to have them readjusted. Since then i have developed jaw pain. One of the fillings was a pulp cap, and may need a root canal down the line as the filling was deep and very close to the nerve. Could this be the cause of my jaw pain? My dentist also think i clentch my teeth in my sleep but i diddnt have any problems prior to the fillings

    1. Hi Jayneka, the jaw pain you are having could be due to grinding, but could also be due to the deep cavity that was filled. If it’s coming from the tooth, you may need that root canal treatment sooner. A pulp cap may not always work with large cavities. If it’s from grinding at night, you will want to get a night guard to reduce the jaw pain. Unfortunately, it really requires a physical exam and probably x-rays to pinpoint where the pain is coming from.

  3. Hi Jo,
    I have had lots of dental problems over the last year concerning my gums which are red (gingivitis) and receded. I have seen the dentist many times who said grinding or clenching was the likely cause and then prescribed a custom made mouth guard that sits on my lower teeth. However after having the guard for a year I have worn it on and off due to the pain it causes around my molars which can make it hard to chew foods in the morning due to pain. Is this normal? Should I continue wearing the guard. The dentist checked that it fitted when I received it so is the pain normal when I wear it or could wearing it be damaging my teeth?

    1. Hi Alice, continued pain while wearing a night guard is not typical. I would suggest taking the night guard back to your dentist to see if any adjustment is needed. Be sure to mention the pain you have been experiencing while wearing it.

  4. Hi there,

    I have a lot of teeth anxiety because I am a hypochondriac. My gums don’t bleed, I brush my teeth regularly but I feel like my tooth is loose but it wiggles only a tiny bit when I touch it. Will touching it regularly make it loose?

    1. Hi Daesha, healthy teeth with healthy gums and bone support do not move easily. However, they can still move with enough force, such as in the case of braces. If you have a history of gum disease or bone loss then they may move more easily. Without a physical exam I am not able to assess whether the amount of movement you are observing is normal or not, but regular visits to your dentist would be a great idea if you want to make sure your teeth and gums are healthy. In general, we do not recommend touching your teeth with your fingers except when you are flossing. It could introduce bacteria and viruses from your fingers or finger nails to your oral cavity.

  5. Hi, I wanted to know if my 2 upper wisdom teeth are causing TMJ and bruxism?. I have never had mouth problems until my upper wisdom came in. They’re crooked but not impacted and my dentist diagnosed me with bruxism also. I have a feeling that if I remove my 2 upper wisdom teeth my problems will go away.

    1. Hi Alfredo, bruxism is grinding or clenching of your teeth either during the day or at night.
      The causes of bruxism are not fully understood but some factors that can increase your risk of bruxism include increased anxiety or stress, having a more competitive or hyperactive personality, some medications and substances such as certain antidepressants, caffeinated beverages, tobacco and recreational drugs. Sometimes abnormal alignment of teeth (malocclusion) can also increase the likelihood of bruxism. It is hard to pinpoint if your bruxism is caused by your upper wisdom teeth since many factors could lead to bruxism. It is best to discuss your particular case with your dentist.

  6. My dentist office, informed me that I have chipped teeth and that it could be from “recent” teeth grinding. A few weeks after seeing them, I ate lunch one day, and noticed a new very small chip in my lower front tooth that wasn’t there prior to eating. I am not grinding my teeth while I am awake, and don’t have any real pain in my jaw or mouth upon waking up in the morning. Could Bruxism cause a chip like this, or are all chips from chewing food simply from generally weakened tooth enamal?

    1. Hi Jason,

      It is hard to know for sure what was causing the chip. Did you have an older filling on your lower front teeth that may have come off instead of a chip in your actual teeth? Did you eat anything hard that could have chipped the lower front tooth that day? Sometimes bone, nuts or shellfish can chip teeth. Do you have any habits that may weaken your teeth, such as opening a beer bottle with your teeth, or chewing ice? If you are older (teeth have seen more chewing action) or if your teeth are naturally more brittle, a chip may occur from general wear and tear. Grinding, clenching or tapping at night can definitely also cause weakening of the teeth which results in chipping, and it’s not always detectable via a sore jaw.

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