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Clenching and Grinding Teeth

TMJ Disorders

People who suffer from facial pain and TMJ pain often complain of a pain similar to a dull toothache or ‘wisdom tooth pain’. It is difficult to locate, and there may also be pain in the jaw joint with limited opening of the mouth. Often it is mistaken for toothache and it is not unknown for perfectly healthy teeth to be removed with no resolution of the pain.


  • Clenching and grinding teeth, most often patients are unaware of doing this and will be reluctant to accept that this is occurring. However, there are dental signs that we can look for to identify this habit.
  • Clenching is silent and damaging to teeth due to the stresses placed on the teeth, frequently causing cracks in teeth. It is usually a response to stress.
  • The symptoms and the habit can occur during the day or the night.
  • Sufferers will often hear a click or crack from the joint when opening wide or when yawning.
  • Muscles around your head, face and neck can become tense and painful.
  • With clenching and grinding the teeth can become painful especially to bite onto or sensitive to hot and cold. A tooth may also feel a little strange to bite onto especially when waking up in the morning. This is commonly mistaken for toothache and the tooth treated unnecessarily. The problem is elsewhere.

Is this a common problem?

The problem occurs in about one in four adults. If you have ever suffered from the problem the likelihood is that you will continue to suffer from time to time.
I have been treated for years with antibiotics for sinusitis and suffered headaches. Nothing worked. Two days of wearing a splint and all the problems had gone.


  • Simple measures will probably help you to cope with this problem, without any need for further treatment:

1. Avoid chewing gum, sticky or hard food and opening unnecessarily wide.

2. Eat soft foods.

3. Alternate heat and cold. A hot water bottle held to the side of the face and ice packs.

4. If you are missing teeth, it may be advisable to have these replaced with partial dentures or implants.

5. Try some of the jaw exercises on the link at the top of the page.

Michigan Appliance

A Michigan appliance is made for the upper teeth (a similar one is sometimes made for the lower teeth called a Tanner appliance) in hard acrylic. This is a simple looking appliance, however, construction requires a lot of surgery time, specialist mounting of models and expert laboratory construction. These can be provided as a Band 3 Charge item on the NHS. Some people have difficulty adapting to wear, however, the majority cope well. They are also sometimes used to protect restorations, e.g. veneers.

Hard (Michigan) Splints are good for:
  • Long term wear - they are hard wearing and will last many years.
  • Patients who clench their teeth as we'll as grind.
  • Treating muscle tension, headaches and neck pain.

They are not so good for:
  • People who find it difficult to tolerate things in the mouth.
  • They cost more to make and take considerably more time to make properly.

Soft Splint

A Soft Splint / Guard is like a sports gum shield and considered less ideal for the treatment of clenching and grinding, however, many patients prefer these. They are usually made for the lower teeth. They are quick and simple to make (compared to the hard version above) and can be cheaper. They will not last as long though since grinding will quickly wear through the guard.

Soft Splints are good for:
  • Initial treatment - they are quick to make and can provide initial relief.
  • Where budget is a concern - although in the long run they will likely be more expensive.
  • Sometimes they are better tolerated.

They are not so good for:
  • People who clench their teeth - it is comfortable to clench harder!!
Business Hours

Monday to Friday

Open 08.45 - 17.00

Closed for lunch 13.00 - 14.00

Listen to the answerphone message out of hours for advice.

Contact Us

0121 476 6218
0121 475 6492

Out of Hours
Call NHS 111

Where We Are

Addison Dental Practice
31, Redhill Road
West Heath
B31 3JS

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