How Do I Know If I’m Grinding My Teeth?

Bruxism Diagnosis and Treatment in Utah County

Most people don’t realize it, but grinding or clenching teeth is common. In fact, many people who clench or grind their teeth don’t even realize they do it.

Clenching: Holding the teeth together and tightening the jaw muscles.
Grinding (bruxism): Moving the jaw with the teeth held together.

Teeth Grinding. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Grinding results in the visible wear and flattening of the teeth, which can become obvious to the patient and especially the dentist. Clenching results in less obvious flattening and wear, but soreness and pain can still result from the tightening of jaw muscles.
So even if you don’t remember clenching or grinding your teeth, check for wearing and flattening where the teeth come together. Furthermore, if you are experiencing jaw pain or stiffness and you aren’t sure of the source, come talk with Dr. Larsen, who can identify bruxism and prescribe treatment to help with your symptoms.

How Common is Bruxism?

Bruxism is most common in childhood, and prevalence decreases with age. Many people clench and grind their teeth, but most of the time it is not problematic. When pain and teeth damage arise, that is when a person needs assistance.
Many children and adults grind their teeth while sleeping, so it is not a conscious habit they can break. Others apply the strain on their teeth during times of concentration, anger, or stress. When the mind is occupied in this manner, during rush hour traffic in Utah County for example, it’s easy to not realize the wear you’re putting on your teeth.

Why Does It Hurt Us?

The human jaw is quite powerful. It is not uncommon for people to be able to bite with their molars in excess of 200 pounds of pressure, studies show. That is a lot of strain on the teeth, especially if the pressure is repeated over and over again.


At our office, which serves north Utah County, including Highland, we treat many cases of bruxism with a simple dental appliance that you wear in between your teeth. It’s very comfortable, easy to get used to, and much like wearing a retainer. Dr. Larsen will consult with you about how often and when it should be worn.
In some cases, medication may help to relax the muscles in the jaw. Certain relaxation techniques may also be recommended. Bruxism treatment with Dr. Larsen can be an important choice for getting rid of jaw pain, headaches and more.
Call for an appointment: (801) 756-4440

Three At-Home Remedies for Bruxism

Is waking up with a headache or pain in your jaw a regular occurrence? Before you pop more pain relievers, you should consider that there might be something else going on. Waking up with a headache is often a sign of bruxism, or grinding your teeth. This mostly occurs at night while you are sleeping. Tension in your jaw causes your arches to grind against each other, resulting in quite a bit of pain and the risk for damage to your teeth. Here are a few things you can do to ease that tension before bed.

1) Cut Back on Caffeine

Caffeine close to bedtime can often cause the jaw to grind from tension in the body. If you enjoy that cup of joe before bed, maybe switch to decaf or cut the caffeine out altogether to help your jaw relax before you sleep.

2) Practice Relaxation Techniques

Deep breathing and muscle-relaxing activities can do wonders for bruxism patients. Take a few moments to relax your muscles, especially your upper body and facial muscles, before closing your eyes for the night.

3) A Warm Compress

Place a warm rag or compress on your jaw while you fall asleep. The heat will relax your muscles and discourage any bruxism while you sleep.

If trying these methods does nothing to end your pain, it’s time to see a dentist to see if you can rule out bruxism. Some bruxism patients need something more advanced to stop the pain and discomfort. Contact us today to set up an appointment. We’d love to help you get better sleep and protect your teeth at the same time!