If you notice that you are waking up with jaw pain or a headache, or that your teeth have become more sensitive when you eat or drink, you might be one of the millions of people suffering from a condition known medically as 'bruxism” or known more commonly as teeth grinding. For those that suffer from this condition, it typically occurs at night as you sleep. While it might not be something that you initially notice, that doesn't mean the effects aren't damaging. Consistent teeth grinding can have a severe negative impact on your teeth. Below are examples of some of the damaging effects bruxism can have on your teeth if left untreated.
It Destroys Tooth Enamel
One of the biggest reasons why bruxism is so damaging is because it can, over time, completely wear the enamel off your teeth. Enamel helps protect your teeth from daily use such as chewing, biting, crunching, and grinding. Enamel also insulates the teeth from potentially painful temperatures and chemicals. While it does happen to be the hardest surface in your mouth, enamel is not indestructible. In fact, it breaks fairly easily because it is so brittle. And, unlike a broken bone that can be repaired by the body, once a tooth chips or breaks, the damage is permanent. Enamel has no living cells, so it cannot be regenerated. Because grinding your teeth can exert so much force on your teeth, it is one of the main causes of tooth enamel damage. When you grind your teeth at night, you are placing up to nearly 10 times the pressure that you would normally exert compared to chewing normally. Thus, if you suffer from bruxism and the condition is left untreated, over time you will be placing enormous pressure on your teeth which can eventually wear down your tooth enamel, exposing the dentin. This will not only make your teeth more sensitive, but it can result in permanent damage to the structure of your teeth and put you at increased risk for suffering from other serious dental issues.
It Can Cause Gum Recession
Another significant problem that teeth grinding can result in is severe gum recession. Your gums hold your teeth in place. They form a protective seal around your teeth and help your teeth attach to the upper and lower jawbone. When you grind your teeth, you are forcefully pushing your teeth against your gums, which will eventually cause the gums to recede. Once your gums recede, the roots of your teeth can become exposed, which is very painful. Gum recession can also create small ‘pockets’ in the gums. Gum pockets, an ideal breeding ground for bacteria to grow, cause tooth decay at the root level, and well as lead to the onset of periodontal disease and gum inflammation.
It Leads to Tooth Fractures and Cracks
Along with destroying your tooth enamel, excessive grinding can cause fractures and microcracks in your teeth, as well as a significant wearing down of your front teeth making them shorter and flatter. Your front teeth tend to typically wear down as you age, but severe bruxism will exacerbate these conditions, because your teeth will be constantly rubbing up against one another with the significant pressure applied. As well, excessive stress on the teeth can lead to tooth fracture. Tooth fractures are very painful, and can require extensive restoration, or if the tooth cannot be saved, extraction.
As you can see, bruxism can takes its toll on your teeth. Because teeth grinding primarily occurs during sleep, it often goes undetected which is why awareness is so important. Identifying your bruxism before it becomes a more serious issue is the key to preventing any permanent damage your teeth. Some of the obvious telltale signs are waking up with a sore, or fatigued jaw muscles; or with a dull headache.
While there is no medication currently available to treat bruxism, dental experts agree that wearing a dental grind guard is the most effective treatment to mitigate symptoms and prevent permanent tooth damage.
A well- fitting dental grind guard prevents the teeth from coming into contact with each other, thereby providing a barrier from the tooth enamel rubbing together. Dental grind guards are removable and generally worn only when needed (i.e., at night while sleeping).