A dentist’s own story…

If you are concerned about your clenching and are having trouble controlling it you are not alone.

I, too, am a clencher as well as a practicing dentist with a background as a Registered Nurse. I have easily spent 20 years searching for answers to address my clenching issues and have finally found relief. The good news is that you can too.

A great deal of my post-doctoral studies have focused on the jaw (TMJ), the bite (occlusion), and the muscles [of the head and neck]; that are related to jaw movements. There is a lot we can do to control bruxism (grinding) but not for clenching; It’s pretty much a neurological mystery left to those stuck with the problem.

I’ve tried biofeedback, night guards, orthotics, NTI’s, acupuncture, acupressure, massage, chiropractic, and medications with minimal results. Actually the NTI helped me survive although it caused my teeth to shift so that I developed an “anterior open bite”. I could not longer touch my front teeth together. Talk about embarrassing when eating. Forget Sushi because I couldn’t cut through anything with my front teeth. Even worse for a clencher because even more load gets sent to the back teeth. I eventually corrected this with Orthodontics.

Most clenchers don’t realize they clench. When examining patients in my office it’s not uncommon to hear them say “i think I might clench”. I look for the common; wear patterns;teeth and check for overactive [head and neck] muscles that are involved with clenching. I suggest that they check in with themselves several times to see if they notice tight shoulders and jaw. If they notice this then think about letting the shoulders drop away from the ears and let the lower jaw drop. In a relaxed jaw there should be a space between the upper and lower teeth. Teeth shouldn’t touch except for when eating and speaking.

Recognizing some he the signs and symptoms:

I clench while concentrating on my work, driving, or engrossed in a task. It’s as if the muscles have lost their ability to relax.

Everytime we close our teeth together the movement is done/directed by 2 very powerful muscles: the Masseter and the Temporalis. These are the main clenching muscles that drive the lower jaw shut.

The Masseter is a thick muscle that runs from the cheekbone and wraps around the angle of the lower jaw. It exerts more pressure than any other muscle in the body so the back molars suffer damage from continuous overload that teeth were not designed to handle. This is what caused me to fracture an upper molar and ended up losing my tooth. When overdeveloped it accentuates a widened jaw in appearance.

The Temporalis is a broad fan-shaped muscle on the side of the head and down the temples and cheekbones before attaching to the lower jaw. Patients point to their temples as an area of discomfort and this muscle also can cause tension headaches.

A few years ago I was took a course in Miami to study the benefits of “therapeutic Botox”. Clearly, I had been clenching all day during this lecture. By the end of the day my jaw muscles were sore and I had a headache. The next morning I awoke with my jaws tight shut. I had so overworked my muscles that they became stiff and it was not easy to open my mouth. That day I was able to receive Botox on my own muscles.After about 5 days I started to feel my jaw muscles relaxing and letting go. After 10 days I couldn’t believe the relief! My clenching muscles let go and I can best explain it as “the Lightness of Being” because that’s exactly how I felt.

Signs and Symptoms include:

  • Tight shoulder muscles
  • neck discomfort
  • Tight and uncomfortable jaw muscles
  • Jaw pain
  • headaches – especially temples and side of head
  • Sore teeth
  • Cracked or broken teeth
  • Tooth loss
  • Joint (TMJ) compression

I now have a working solution for my patients who experience pain associated with clenching. One of my patients recently called his treatment “life changing.”

If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact my San Francisco practice at (415) 576-9800. It will be my sincere pleasure to help you.

Read more about Jaw & Teeth Clenching here