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Teeth Clenching, Grinding (Bruxism) and Parafunctional Habits

Remember the Motto: Your Lower Teeth Have No Business Touching Your Upper Teeth


Every other day, I see one of you breaking a root. It has very involved and expensive consequences. When a root fracture occurs, we cannot fix that tooth and when that happens, it must be removed (tooth extraction). This then requires dental implant replacements and new dental crowns which cost thousands of dollars.

Typically, an otherwise healthy tooth root fracture occurs when excessive pressure is placed upon it. As I have told many of you, no food is hard enough to break a tooth’s root. It’s not chewing that breaks your tooth.

It’s the pressure from the tooth in the opposite arch of the bracket (teeth clenching) when you clench or grind your teeth (bruxism) that can break your tooth and its root. These activities are called parafunctional habits.

When you chew your food, you have food in between your teeth, and when you talk, your upper teeth get close but do not touch. So, in normal use, upper and lower teeth do not come in contact with each other. Therefore, if you find yourself clenching your teeth during the day, try to keep them apart. If the cause of your clenching is stress related, try a few breathing exercises or go for a walk during the day to relieve some of the tension. If you think you are grinding your teeth (bruxism) at night, get fitted with a night split to put your jaw at ease and prevent damage from bruxism or teeth clenching.

As far as nocturnal bruxism is concerned, you may fall asleep and wake up with your teeth apart, but every twenty minutes (Stage 2) during a two hour sleep cycle, your muscles will tense and relax, causing parafunctional habits like bruxism or clenching.


That means, when you grind or clench your teeth, it only occurs for twenty minutes during the sleep cycle and is not continuous. Everyone goes through this phase, but when you are stressed or anxious, you will do this more intensely. Of course, it is easier said than done to reduce stress. Most of us struggle with stress and anxiety on a daily basis. A more practical approach is to get a nighttime splint to protect the teeth when we clench or grind our teeth (parafunctional habits) severely.

A proper nighttime splint is made of a hard material and fits so perfectly, that it does not interfere with the comfort of sleep. The soft mouth guard at your local sporting goods store is a “mouth” guard and should not be worn at night. These mouth guards are meant to protect the teeth during high impact sporting activities. If worn at night, they encourage grinding and clenching like a piece of meat or a piece of chewing gum would.

Remember, the tooth surface does not regenerate like skin, nails, or hair. Your teeth, jaw muscles, and joints do not need exercise like your abdominals, biceps, and legs. When your permanent teeth erupt between 6 to 12 years old, these are the teeth you will have for the rest of your life and damage to them cannot be repaired by your body.

The sooner you wear them out, the sooner you will need our services. If you believe you suffer from teeth clenching or bruxism, feel free to call us at (310) 273-9199 to set up an appointment and we can discuss your options.

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