CLENCHING AND GRINDING IS A CAUSE OF TMD NOT A SYMPTOM! Written By: Dr. Ankita Shah, 15 October 2023

Bruxism or clenching of teeth, also known as chronic teeth grinding, affects millions of people. We are so used to hearing that clenching and grinding are common symptoms of TMD. However, they are not symptoms of TMD but can cause TMJ Disorder. To know more, you can read about How bruxism can cause TMJ Disorder?

Bruxing in people of all ages can be linked to airway disturbances during sleep. The airway can become too narrow or blocked by mucus from allergies or by interference from the nose, jaw or tongue. Recent studies have proven that the reason for teeth grinding and clenching is the body’s response to open up the airway as we transition from deep stages of sleep. It can also arise from injury to the joints, jaw or dysfunction of the orofacial muscles, head and neck muscles and hip alignments

Take back control of your life by understanding the root cause of TMD linked with clenching and grinding. Find expert solutions that can provide relief and experience the comfort and relief you deserve. Don’t wait any longer, take action now!

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What Is Bruxism?

It is derived from the Greek word brychein. Bruxism means tooth grinding. The term was introduced to describe involuntary, excessive grinding, clenching or rubbing of the teeth during nonfunctional movements of the masticatory system. It refers to movements of the jaw that are beyond the normal functional activity of the teeth and jaws (e.g., speaking, chewing or swallowing)

Signs and Symptoms

Some people experience no symptoms whatsoever. Some common Bruxism symptoms people experience are:

Sore jaw muscles

Slow eating

Tension headaches


Stiff neck

Tooth sensitivity

Chipped teeth

Dull ache starting at the temples

Sounds loud enough to wake your partner at night

Irregular, interrupted disturbed sleep patterns

Take A Step Back

Now think, have you ever complained of the above mentioned signs or have you noticed these signs?

What Is Causing You To Clench Your Teeth?

There could be multiple factors affecting you. We need to rule out which one?

Local factors: occlusal interferences, high filling restorations or poor restorations, crowding of teeth, incorrect contact between upper and lower teeth. Other local factors that can cause you to clench your teeth are

a) Incorrect teeth alignment: Misaligned teeth can cause the jaw to shift and move in unnatural ways, leading to bruxism. When teeth are not aligned properly, the bite can become imbalanced, causing the muscles in the jaw to work harder to compensate for the misalignment. This extra muscle activity can lead to teeth clenching and grinding.

b) Neck alignment: Poor neck alignment can cause tension in the muscles of the neck and jaw, leading to teeth clenching or grinding. When the neck is misaligned, it can cause the muscles in the jaw to work harder to maintain balance and support the head, leading to bruxism.

c) Hip alignment: The alignment of the hips can also affect the muscles of the jaw and contribute to teeth clenching or grinding. When the hips are not aligned properly, it can cause the muscles in the jaw to work harder to maintain balance and stability, leading to bruxism.

Systemic factors: parasitic and digestive diseases like worms, malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies like magnesium, allergies, endocrine disorders, mental retardation, cerebral palsy.

Psychological factors: Personality disorders like hyperactivity and increased stress and anxiety, argument or fighting(altercations) or problems at work or home

Habits such as fidgeting due to a high sympathetic drive

Tongue Tie

Mouth breathing, noisy breathing, snoring, sleep apnea, sleep disordered breathing

Deviated septum or nasal obstructions

Types of bruxism

Awake bruxism: Jaw clenching and teeth grinding during the day is commonly associated with emotional issues. Awake bruxism does not require treatment, especially if you can detect and stop it. Managing stress and developing techniques to become more aware of your behaviour can help reduce the frequency of teeth grinding.

Sleep bruxism: If a person grinds their teeth while sleeping, it can cause more harm. Unfortunately, because individuals are typically unaware that it is happening, they may not seek the help they need. One challenge with sleep bruxism is that people are often unaware of the intensity of their jaw clenching and teeth grinding, which can cause jaw pain and dental issues.

Did you know sleep bruxism or teeth grinding during sleep can be a Red Flag for sleep, breathing and TMJ disturbances?

Believe it or not, bruxism can point us in the direction of diagnosing a rather serious disorder known as Tongue ties, TMD or Obstructive sleep apnea/ sleep disordered breathing which is highly prevalent in our population.

What Is The Link Between Clenching, Sleep Disordered Breathing and TMD?


Episodes of teeth grinding generally occur when you transition from a non-REM deep sleep stage to REM sleep stage. It is not a continuous activity but a periodic one that occurs for a few minutes when there is transition in the sleep stages.

Our airway should be nice and wide open while awake or sleeping. As we transition in the deep stages of sleep all muscles of the body relax and the tongue is also one of those muscles. When the tongue musculature relaxes, it positions low and the back of the tongue falls back into the airway . Our body is beautifully made and hence we start compensating. The fight and flight response is triggered as a protective mechanism in order to open up the airway. This results in an involuntary forward movement of the lower jaw to open the airway. This unstable bite increases muscle activity and leads to grinding of the teeth at night. Teeth grinding causes muscle dysfunction which in turn causes TMJ disorders.

Neck and hip alignment also have an impact on the overall posture. The poor alignment of the neck or hips can cause muscle tension in other parts of the body including the jaw, leading to TMJ.

Take back control of your life by understanding the root cause of TMD linked with clenching and grinding. Find expert solutions that can provide relief and experience the comfort and relief you deserve. Don’t wait any longer, take action now!

Make An Appointment

How Can We Help?

Now that you have understood the link your obvious question is – What can be done? We need to assess all the factors that can lead to grinding teeth & jaw pain and treat accordingly. If there are any underlying sleep disordered breathing disturbances , tongue ties or jaw disturbances these need to be addressed.

Once the airway focused TMJ doctor assesses he/she will take a holistic approach to treat the problem and help you establish a proper oral rest posture, correct muscle dysfunction of the tongue and face, restore nasal breathing and a good sleep with the help of Airway Orthodontics, GNM Orthotics, Oral Myofunctional Therapy and Breath Retraining. So contact a tongue tie specialist in India today if you have any questions or to schedule a consultation.

Happy Breathing!


Please feel free to ask us any questions. You can always contact us for questions or to schedule a consultation.

Keywords : teeth grinding, bruxism, clenching teeth, grinding teeth at night, sleep disorder, mouth breathing, Oral myofunctional Therapy, sleep dentistry, tongue ties, breath retraining, airway orthodontics, TMJ and grinding, TMJ and clenching, TMJ and sleep apnea

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