Excessive teeth grinding (medically known as bruxism) can really wreak havoc with your overall health causing sleep disruption, migraine headaches, TMJ pain, and vertigo – to name a just a few, but you may not be aware of how, over time, bruxism can negatively impact your appearance by causing permanent damage to your teeth and gums and even affecting the shape of your face! Here’s a look at what could happen if your bruxism goes untreated.
Because the pressure exerted when you grind your teeth is nearly 10 times that of normal chewing, consistent grinding wears down tooth enamel. The enamel is the outer most layer of the tooth and provides a protective coating. While tooth enamel is actually the hardest substance in your body, it can be broken easily because it is so brittle and will never regenerate so when it’s gone, it’s gone. Once the underlying dentin which is a tissue containing hollow canals called tubules, is exposed, your teeth will not only appear yellowish in color, but they will also be hypersensitive meaning they will hurt to the touch, making it painful to eat, drink or even brush. So bruxism, if left untreated will not only make your teeth more sensitive, but can result in permanent damage to the structure of your teeth and put you at increased risk for tooth decay and significant dental issues.
Another serious problem that excessive teeth grinding causes is severe gum recession. Gums are responsible for holding your teeth in your mouth. 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 them 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, an ideal breeding ground for bacteria to grow and cause tooth decay at the root level.
Tooth Fractures and Cracks
The intense pressure clenching puts on your teeth can cause them to crack, split, or fracture. When the damage is done only to the tooth itself, it’s referred to as primary occlusal trauma. Secondary occlusal trauma occurs when movement causes the tooth to become dislodged. When this happens, your tooth could become loose and fall out. Over time, the back-and-forth motion of teeth grinding can cause both primary and secondary occlusal trauma. This type of trauma is not only painful and unattractive but can make everyday functions like eating and talking incredibly challenging.
Change in Facial Appearance
Over time, the consistent friction of tooth on tooth grinding will cause your teeth to lose their natural contours so they become flat and even in length. Shorter teeth can give the appearance of an over-closed mouth, which in short, will make you look older. And if that’s not bad enough, teeth grinding can lead to an increased use of the masseter muscles at the back angle of the lower jaw. Continued clenching can cause these muscles to bulk-up, which can give your face a wider appearance.
Treating your Bruxism
Because bruxism 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 long term damage that could affect your appearance. 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 damage inside your mouth.A well- fitting dental grind guard prevents the upper and lower teeth from coming into contact with each other, 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).