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Sleep clenching, which occurs while dreaming is an unconscious act. It could be a gift from Nature; a signaling method, to let us know that Nature is trying to tell us something, that is, something we fail to acknowledge. In other words, there is probably a conflict between the conscious and unconscious mind. http://www.globalizationresearch.com/Nature sends us messages via dreams, intuitions, cognitions, etc., but it 'ain't' that easy to figure out. Most people need help from a qualified Jungian trained psychiatrist or physchologist. However, a properly trained dentist in the Tanner methods can make you comfortable.

It is an unconscious act; yet, squeezing teeth together while sleeping is not always dysfunctional; that is, it is needed for the eruption process of teeth. Sleep clenching is only However, many of us have an episode of clenching that occurs and will continue until we modify our consciousness to Nature’s import.

An episode can last for a long time causing a lot of problems to muscles, teeth and the structural integrity of the joint and ear chamber. The signs and symptoms of clenching may be subtle or obvious. All dentists recognize 'obvious symptoms' but the subtle ones are often over looked; yet, anyone can be taught how to recognize them. The subtle ones show us that there is trouble brewing.

The Clenching Syndrome (also called the TMJ Syndrome) is a cycle. It has a beginning, which is always the same, and a final stage, which is always the same, if it progresses to its end. A slight (subtle) looseness of the teeth is the first sign of sleep clenching--something you can detect yourself. The final stage, which is advanced periodontal disease (teeth that may have to be removed), is not experienced in every person. Nevertheless, if one continues to clench, the cycle will continue reaching the final stage.

Everyone clenches and everyone causes damage, however the amount of damage depends on the amount and intensity of clenching trauma. Many people are not aware of nocturnal clenching and are often offended when I suggest that they do so.

Unfortunately, medicine and dentistry have not yet learned the terrible consequences of nocturnal clenching and the many problems it causes. MDs, Dentists, Chiropractors, and the rest of the medical arena, were not taught about the clenching syndrome. For example, it is obvious to an occlusal therapist, that spastic torticollis is cause by clenching yet; medicine claims it has an unknown cause. The literature makes little mention of nocturnal clenching as a cause of headaches and other aches and pains of the head and neck.

There are two parts of the clenching syndrome: occlusomuscular problems and occlusodentition problems. The first is concerned with irritation of the muscles of the head and neck with irritation to the TM joints and ear apparatus. The second deals with damage to teeth and their supporting structures.

Understanding how sleep clenching causes problems in an unbalanced bite (which means an unbalanced jaw) is very important to effect proper treatment for TMJ problems.

TMJ is the common term relating to occlusomuscular pains, however, it is a misnomer, which causes confusion and is widely misused.




About Dr. Thomas

An e-mail to me.

Hello,  I found your web site interesting and informative; however, I did not find any information on YOU. Who are you?  A dentist, doctor, or other practitioner. You mentioned helping patients in your practice, but I could not establish what type of practice it is? What are your credentials? My question is "Can clenching of the teeth during sleep cause pressure on nerves to affect other parts of the body, specifically hands and feet? Or, are clenching symptoms confined to the upper body only?"

Hi, Thanks for the reminder. I will put some information about me on my web page. I'm a retired dentist who specialized in periodontics for 23 years. First, there is no specialty in the treatment of TMJ problems yet. There seems to be very little awareness in my profession that clenching is a serious problem. I treated many TMJ and periodontal cases using the Tanner methods and the mopfloss method of cleaning between teeth with a great deal of success. I thought that the public and dentistry should know more about clenching and cleaning between teeth. It took me years to learn what clenching can do. I'm just a voice in the wilderness trying to make people aware of the problems teeth clenching can cause. There are so-called TMJ specialist, but there are no training programs to create an expert. You can hang up your shingle as an expert if you want to, but every dentist should know how to handle clenching problems. So, since there are no real experts in the field, there are no credentials. I just want to past along my and my colleagues experience.

I got this e-mail about the validity of my site

I often search the web for interesting articles for our reception area. However, for (what) is the basis for this article. I would like some of my patients to read this however, but it has not been endorsed by the ADA. What is your source or authority over the matter?   J T 

Hi,    I doubt that the ADA would approve of my information since dentistry is so far behind in clenching physiology. It is honest and comes from 30 years of successful treatment of clenching problems (together with colleagues who use the Tanner method). My profession, as a whole, does not recognize clenching as a 'cause' for dental and TMJ problems, which is a shame. I'm only trying to expose this tragic oversight through my web pages, which are free to anyone interested. It is a new site but it is already getting more than 8000 visitors each month, from all over the world, probably since almost everyone has a 'clenching' problem or two. I hope I can help fix this problem in dentistry. If your doctor not using the same treatment philosophy, it may cause some of you to become confused, but it is OK to use my information if you wish. Good luck in your search for valid information for your patients, 




Hearing  and Clenching

Is there a connection with sleep clenching and reduced hearing? There is no question among qualified occlusal therapists that there is. I have questioned hundreds of patients about less hearing in the problem joint area. Nearly all report less hearing. There are several possibilities for this. One is the possibility that the tympanic membrane is attached to the inter ear apparatus. The second is the possibility that the tympanic foramen may not be sealed. Dr. Mahan explain this is the following videos. Play the available movies.

Kids and clenching

The above is a 7 year old girl. Notice in the photo that she has a chipped lateral incisor (damage from clenching). 

The four tooth anterior deprogrammer (in the lower photo) was use every-other night for several weeks before the kid stopped clenching. This type of clenching is rare, but treatable when the upper incisors have fully erupted. 

Anterior  deprogrammers are described in “A Guide For TMJ-Type problems”, a book about treatment for occlusomuscular problems.

Mopfloss (Cleaning between teeth)

Mopfloss (Cleaning between teeth)

Mopflossing is a method to clean between teeth. It has been proven to maintain optimum gingival health when done properly. Since it take several days for sufficient plaque to accumulate when all plaque is removed, mopflossing only needs to be done three time a week.


Q-tip Movie

Q-tip Movie

Tanner Tapes and information

Dr. Henry Tanner tape series contains:         

A four volume videotape set of Dr. Henry Tanner in action. This uniquely complete series covers;

The History and Evolution of the Tanner Appliance

Fabrication & Laboratory Procedures Prior to Placement

Patient Interview, Appliance Placement & Adjustment

Record Taking for Fabrication and the Repair of Broken Appliance

The complete set of videotapes is available for $550 US from Massy Dental Studio. A portion of this fee will fund the Tanner Scholarship Fund for Dentist & Technicians. AGD credit available with core test.

I have watched these tapes and they are very good. Great for small or large groups of dentists and technicians!

Send order and payment to: 

Massey Dental Studio,  2550 Stover Building E201, Ft Collins, Colorado 80525

For information call Bill Massey @: 800.642.1042 or Fax: 970.493.1249


Dr. Fred Cory is an expert in the field of Bite Therapy. He has worked closely with Dr. Tanner for many years. He is available for lecture and office consultation. Get in touch with him. There are not too many like him. 

Dr. Michael Kadair is an expert in occlusal therapy. He and the late Dr. Tanner have taught many courses together. Call to get a list of his training programs at: 1-225-925-0744



Spastic torticollis (ST)--also called Dystonia--is a painful dysfunctional problem. The neck muscles on one side become spastic, causing the head to lean. The normal treatment involves using very strong anti-inflammatory medications; however. It does not offer a lot of relief. These people desperately need help. There is nothing in the literature that supports clenching as a cause, but there is no doubt in my mind and colleagues knowledgeable in the cause and effect of clenching.

ST is a good place to start in the clenching syndrome. It demonstrates how clenching trauma can cause serious problems. ST may be the worse muscle problem that clenching trauma can cause, but balancing the jaw clearly shows how an unbalanced jaw causes problems. These people have an unusual and not too common bite. Most occlusomuscular problems involve facial muscle spasms, which simulate headaches, migraine, and earaches. plus other assorted muscle problems. Muscles problems are just a few of the problems clenching causes.

In order to cause spasticity in neck muscle one has to squeeze on the back teeth, usually one that is severely out of line allowing a person to create a lot of leverage—much more that the normal acquired bite. 

When I palpate the sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM)—as seen below--in a person suffering for TMJ type problems it may be a little sore, but in ST, it can be very sore. If it is tender, I check the patient’s posture. I often find that there will be a little leaning to one side and the opposite shoulder will be dropping a bite, such as the 13-year-old Guatemalan girl below. Right away, I know that the patient is a potential ST case. Further, when I check her bite I found the usual open bite that has no anterior support during cross over (moving side to side). This indicates that a posterior tooth—often a third molar—is preventing the anterior crossover support as seen her photo below.


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As you can see, Susan is unable to hold her head erect, when she tried to straighten it, there was excruciating pain.


When I examined her, I found that she had no crossover anterior contact. In laymen’s language, this means that when she moved her jaw to the left or right, only back teeth make contact. The front teeth did not touch. This is a bad situation when someone clenches in that position. Front teeth need to support the jaw in all movements. Without this support she could squeeze on back teeth with tremendous leverage. This type of leverage can cause neck muscles to become spastic. 

You can see that there is no contact on the front teeth when she crosses over to the right. There would be many spastic neck muscles if lots of people had this much of a crossover problem.


Keep in mind that a person has to clench on those back teeth to create muscle problems. The more one clenches the more severe the muscle problems will be; however, neck soreness is probably present in some degree in bites like this even if the person does not have a serious ST problem. 

I wanted to give her crossover support, which is the logical first thing to do for ST patients. The front teeth need a lot of build-up to guard against jaw leverage from those in the way-in-back teeth. I made her a simple anterior deprogrammer bite splint. The anterior bite splint was made on the lower front teeth because I could make it smaller and less obtrusive. 


In the upper left photo, one can see that the splint gave her crossover support on the left side. In the center photo she had support when her jaw was centered in centric. In the right photo, she had crossover support on the right side. In lay terms, Susan could not contact those back teeth that kept her from touching front teeth when she moved her jaw left or right, when using the splint. The splint was a temporary solution, but it began to reduce the neck pain.

After a few weeks I started equilibration. The objective of equilibration was to balance her jaw so that there would not need of the bite splint, that is, she would have crossover support on her front teeth wherever she moved her jaw. You can see in the lower photos that equilibration solved that problem.


The upper left photo shows that she has left crossover support. The center photo shows that she was balanced in Centric. The right photo shows she has right crossover support.


This is Susan six years after therapy. The muscle pain is gone. More important, she can hold her head straight. No one asks her what is wrong anymore. She is a happy lady.

During the initial treatment (anterior deprogrammer) I start treatment with the help of a physician to reduce the muscle inflammation and following completion of occlusal therapy. It will take time to completely remove the chronic muscle inflammation. This can be done in a number of ways: Massage, myo-therapy (Bonnie Pruden), anti-inflammatory medication, and exercise. How much time it will take depends on how long the neck muscles have been spastic. In Susan’s case it took several months.

Any unbalance bite, when clenched on, can cause problems. What happens to people from clenching depends on the type of unbalanced bite they have, and what they do with that bite when they sleep. The object of therapy, for all clenching problems, is to balance the jaw with a balanced bite. ST is just another of the many clenching problems. In this case, I eliminated the serious clenching problem using logical occlusal therapy, a simple splint followed by balancing her jaw with equilibration.

While advanced ST can be treated with occlusal therapy, early ST is much easier to treat.