Bruxism, aka tooth grinding

This occlusal splint is held in place by a tiny silver clip on each side. You can see the clip to the left in this photograph.

I have suffered from nocturnal bruxism (teeth grinding and jaw clenching) for most of my life. It worsens when I am stressed or worried about something. Because I do it when I am asleep, I have no control over it. My dentist made me aware of my bruxism when I was about 18, and told me I should wear a dental appliance to prevent damage to my teeth. Because I was unaware I was doing it, I ignored his advice for some years until the pain and damage to my teeth was significant.

At that point I started sporadically wearing a Horley bite plate. I say sporadically because it was really uncomfortable and covered part of my palate. The wires and plate reminded me horribly of the uncomfortable single-wire brace I had had to wear briefly as a child.

When I married my first husband, he made it clear how bad my grinding was. I slept through it but apparently the noise was awful, and constant. I woke him up nightly. That really freaked me out, so for the past 25 years I have worn an acrylic occlusal splint. I have chewed through about four of them, and now cannot sleep without one. They don’t stop me grinding or stop the pressure, but they do protect the surfaces of my teeth.


For the past six months I have been suffering from agonising pain in my jaw, as well as earache and debilitating headaches. My dentist discovered that I was suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), caused by grinding and improper bite. My jaw was clenching at an angle, where my right molars met but my left molars didn’t.

I now have a thicker bite plate, adjusted to my jaw. Since I have been wearing it, I have not had a single headache. Not one. The relief is enormous.

I know two people who wear bite plates/dental guards and at least another five who have been told they should, but have not done anything. In my opinion, most people should probably be wearing them. They can take a bit of getting used to, and are sometimes a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, but I would never be without one now.

Bruxism can

  • crack and break teeth
  • break fillings
  • wear teeth down to stumps
  • cause cheek biting
  • enlarge jaw muscles
  • cause the jaw to lock or click, and restrict mouth opening
  • cause referred ear pain
  • be inherited
  • be caused by certain medications

Teeth are so important to health. I am just sorry I did not listen to my doctor earlier.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

3 thoughts

  1. Thank you so much for your advice, I have really bad teeth, they are breaking and make brushing painful sometimes. I have never been told that I grind my teeth but think it must be something similar to this that I do that has caused my teeth and fillings to crack and break.

  2. I’m also wearing the acrylic guard. It’s such a relief too. My symptoms are not as severe as yours, but I’m glad I’m wearing one of these guards and I can’t do without one. Glad you had a good dentist who could take away these awful headaches without adding any painkillers!…

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