Clenching and Grinding

Many people have experienced teeth grinding and clenching (bruxism), especially during sleep. Sleep apnoea symptoms are also occurring more frequently in Australia. Many more people suffer from headaches, neck aches and jaw aches. Some people can wake up with jaw muscle tension or pain and feel tired all day.

As dentists, we’re often asked how to address these issues.

Occlusal dental splints can be prescribed to help each of these problem areas. Here is some basic information on occlusal splints for you.

If you wake up with a headache, neck ache or jaw ache, or you have been told that you clench and grind your teeth (sometimes your partner can hear this!), then one of the above solutions may work for you.

There can be number of causes of clenching and grinding including:

  • emotional stress
  • mental concentration
  • physical stress, such as illness, poor nutrition or long-term pain
  • Breathing problems whilst asleep

As dentists at Sydney Holistic Dental Centre, there are a number of things we can do to address these concerns.

These can include making custom fitted appliance to your mouth. The appliances should be comfortable and generally take a few nights to get used to. These do not impinge on your tongue. You can open and close your mouth normally as these splints do not lock or fix your jaws together.

If you’re keen to have a chat with one of our practitioners or find out more, please contact us today.

There are a number of symptoms that could suggest you are clenching or grinding at night:

  • grinding sounds while you are asleep – your bed partner may hear these
  • headache, jaw joint and/or ear pain
  • clicking jaw
  • aching teeth, particularly just after waking up
  • aching and/or stiffness of the face and temples just after waking up
  • aching or stiffness in the jaws while chewing, particularly during breakfast
  • clenching the jaw when angry, anxious or concentrating
  • temperature-sensitive teeth
  • cracked or chipped tooth enamel
  • tooth indentations on the tongue
  • raised tissue on the inside of the cheek caused by biting
  • loose teeth.

There are a number of consequences of clenching and grinding:

  • cracked tooth enamel
  • more wear and tear on the teeth than is normal
  • broken teeth or broken restorations (for example, fillings)
  • strain on the jaw joint (temporo-mandibular joint or TMJ)
  • pain in the jaw joint or limited movement
  • sore jaw muscles

The dentist may suggest to you an appliance based on your specific circumstances.

1. General splints

These are used to treat tension headaches, neck aches and/or jaw joint problems.

These range from upper or lower night guards/occlusal splints/bite plates. A properly adjusted appliance or splint are designed:

  • To protect the teeth from wear
  • Relieve pressure from the jaw joints
  • Take tension out of the muscles of the jaw, head and neck
  • Increase room for your tongue so that it doesn’t drop back at night and block the airways
  • Eliminate head neck and jaw pain
  • Improve energy

Often what is not understood is that when you are given a splint, you’re actually getting a course of treatment. That is, the splint may need to be adjusted over time and rebalanced as it wears.


The SOMA appliance combines a number of different treatment methods to correct a range of problems you might be facing.

SOMA stands for Splint, Orthodontic, Myofunctional Appliance.

A SOMA addresses more than just TMD including opening of a narrow maxilla (potentially improved nasal breathing), correcting malocclusion and misalignment of the cranials.

If you’re suffering from headaches, neck aches or jaw aches, a SOMA could be a potential solution. The SOMA will bring your jaw forward and enable you to breathe through your nose, relaxing the jaw, neck and throat muscles.

There are a number of other benefits including improvement to posture and spine.

3. Somnomed

A Somnomed device is a more advanced airway appliance. It is actually termed a mandibular advancement splint or mandibular advancement device.

The first step is to determine the extent and severity of your clenching and grinding. From here the Dentist will advise based on your specific circumstances which approach will achieve the best results.

There are a number of factors in play: the severity of the clenching and grinding issue, your sleep routine and sleep hygiene, how you are breathing, the condition of your teeth and the symptoms such as headaches, neck aches and jaw pain.

Commonly Asked Questions

The TMJ is the temporo-mandibular joint – more simply the jaw joint.

TMD is temporo-mandibular disorder – more simply any jaw joint disorder. It is also referred to as TMJ disorder. A review of the symptoms are presented below.

Dental Splints

An occlusal splint is an oral appliance that is worn while you sleep.

You may have heard a number of different names for occlusal splints including dental appliance, dental guard, night splints, night guard, mouth guard for teeth grinding, biteplate or orthotic. These broadly refer to the same thing.

If you’re teeth grinding or clenching, or wake up with jaw pain headaches or neck aches, an occlusal splint may be a good treatment option.

A night time splint has a number of purposes:

  • Prevent teeth wearing
  • Balance, support and relieve tension in the jaw joints, cranial bones and muscles of the head & neck
  • Open bite up to create more space for your tongue (increase tongue volume)
  • Improve energy flow throughout the body, especially helpful during sleep to improve airway & breathing and facilitate a refreshing night’s sleep
  • Reduce clenching and grinding to reduce headaches, neck aches & jaw aches

There are 3 main types of splints we prescribe at the Sydney Holistic Dental Centre.

  1. General splints to treat TMD
  2. SOMA
  3. Somnomed

The dentist may suggest to you an appliance based on your specific circumstances.

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