The problem of grinding your teeth, otherwise referred to as bruxism, is a condition that both children and adults suffer from. Although this condition does not usually cause harm, the problem arises when it occurs on a regular basis, thus causing tooth damage, stress fractures, and other oral complications.
It is, therefore vital to be aware of the consequences of teeth grinding and how it can impact your dental well-being.
What Exactly Is Grinding?
Teeth grinding is the involuntary grinding, gnashing, gritting or clenching of the teeth. Most people with this condition may unconsciously clench or grind their teeth during the day or at night during sleep, a condition referred to as sleep bruxism.
What Causes Bruxism?
According to dental research, people with sleep bruxism often suffer from other sleep disorders such as snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Unfortunately, most of them do not realize they have sleep bruxism until they are told by their bed partner, parent, or by their dentist who finds evidence of wear on their teeth.
Stress and anxiety
During stressful situations, people develop nervous, repetitive conditions that they use to relieve their tension and anxiety. For some, it can be nail biting or teeth grinding. In fact, recent research indicates a possible link between bruxism and a stressful work environment.
People with hyperactive, competitive or aggressive personality including those with attention deficit are more prone to suffer from teeth grinding. This is because hyperactive people have an excess of nervous energy that is released through clenching or gnashing of the teeth.
According to the Bruxism Association, excessive smoking, drinking of caffeinated beverages, alcohol, and taking of illicit drugs such as methamphetamine may increase the risk of teeth grinding.
Consequences of Teeth Grinding
The effects of bruxism can range from mild irritations to serious dental problems. However, it is important to note that one day of clenching or grinding your teeth cannot cause bruxism but rather years of this behavior. Some of the possible symptoms of bruxism include:
According to the Bruxism Association, headache is the most commonly cited symptom of bruxism. In most cases, people with chronic bruxism develop Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder that in turn leads to headaches. Normally, TMJ occurs as a result of excessive pressure on the jaw resulting from teeth clenching.
In addition, people who suffer from bruxism can develop stiff neck muscles, a possible cause for headaches. The pain of these headaches is usually felt around the sides and back of the head. If your headaches arise due to TMJ disorders, your dentist may refer you to a pain specialist or recommend a mouth guard.
Uneven or chipped tooth surface
Apart from headaches, uneven or chipped tooth surface is the other most common symptom that occurs due to bruxism. Due to the frequent tooth-to-tooth contact (attrition), the occlusal surface (biting surface) wears out.
Although the exact attrition pattern is dependent on how the bruxism occurs, people who grind their teeth for example, may grind the canines and incisors of the opposing arches against each other laterally leading to wearing down or chipping of the tooth surface. This type of teeth damage can cause an uneven bite surface that can lead to difficulty when chewing. Chipped teeth can also lead to cavities so it’s best to see your dentist about a mouth guard to prevent more damage.
Other consequences of teeth grinding include:
- Facial myalgia
- Temporomandibular joint discomfort and muscle aches
- Tight and stiff shoulders
- Sleep disruption
- Limited mouth opening
- Inflammation and recession of the gums
- Premature loss of teeth
- Excess tooth mobility
- Abnormal tooth wear that can result in short teeth
- Increased sensitivity
Treatment for Bruxism
Stopping bruxism is dependent on the cause. For instance, some people develop bruxism due to stress and anxiety; sleep disorders, while others develop it because of lifestyle factors. Therefore, before you settle on a treatment plan, it is vital to have your dentist examine you and develop a plan that is specifically tailored for you.
However, most dentists will recommend and fit you with an occlusal appliance such as a night guard to protect you from grinding your teeth while sleeping. These custom made, plastic mouthpieces fit comfortably over your top or bottom teeth protecting your teeth from wear. They also help in reducing jaw muscle pain. Night guards are normally worn during bedtime and are considered the treatment of choice.
If you are struggling constant headaches, chipped teeth, or uneven teeth surfaces, due to bruxism, make an appointment with Central Avenue Dental as soon as possible at either our Manhattan or Valley Stream locations.