There’s a common misconception that grinding or clenching your teeth at night affects only your oral health. But the truth is, teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, can severely affect your overall health. The American Sleep Association estimates that 10 percent of all people (and 15 percent of all children) suffer from bruxism. This unconscious condition is triggered by several factors, including anxiety, family history, teeth alignment, and caffeine consumption.
While bruxism is commonly known as a nighttime disorder, it can occur during normal waking hours, though patients may not be aware that they’re doing it. In this article, we will break down five of the most common effects of bruxism, and provide guidance on how to treat bruxism.
Clenching Teeth at Night Can Remove Enamel
Enamel is the visible part of your teeth, it provides a protective outer coating to each of your teeth. Tooth enamel is actually the hardest substance in the human body, but it can be broken easily because it is so brittle. If you’ve ever chipped a tooth, you know it doesn’t take much force for the enamel to break off. Thus, when you grind and clench your teeth at night, the force that your jaw exerts is enough to wear down that coating. When you grind your teeth, the pressure you exert is nearly 10 times that of regular chewing. After years of bruxism, the enamel on your teeth will thin, making your teeth more sensitive to heat and cold. In some cases, bruxism exposes the underlying layers of your teeth, thereby increasing sensitivity and making you at risk for tooth decay.
Your Risk for TMD Increases
Your jaw is connected to your skull via your temporomandibular joint, which allows you to move your jaw. Every time you talk, eat, or yawn, you are engaging this joint. Through sometimes called TMJ, after the joint itself, any issue that affects this part of your body is known as a temporomandibular disorder, or TMD.
While clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth at night, this hinge, and the muscles around it, are tightened. After a night of intense bruxism, you can wake up with a sore jaw. If bruxism continues, TMD can lead to chronic jaw pain, headaches, and an inflamed face, and may require surgery to correct the damage it has done to your jaw.
Front Teeth Could Be Chiseled Down
People who suffer from bruxism may see a change in the way their teeth look. With a normal smile, the top row of teeth is slightly varied in length. The central incisors (the front, middle two teeth) and cuspids (sometimes called canine teeth or eye teeth) are typically around the same length. The lateral incisors, which are located between the central incisors and cuspids, are a bit shorter. Over time, people suffering from bruxism will notice that all of their upper teeth become the same length. This will greatly affect how your teeth hit when your upper and lower teeth come together.
Overall, this type of wear and tear is not uncommon. In fact, this is the path most of our smiles will take as we get older. However, those affected by bruxism could experience these changes far earlier than most, resulting in a smile that looks aged beyond their years.
Tissue Damage Causes 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. If you’re experiencing bruxism, you are forcefully pushing your teeth against your gums, which will eventually cause your gums to recede. Once your gums recede, the roots of your teeth can become exposed, which is very painful. Gum recession can also create gaps where bacteria grows, known as gum pockets. The bacteria that forms in gum pockets can lead to tooth decay and rot.
Bruxism Leads to Fractured or Dislodged Teeth
Bruxism can cause your teeth to crack, split, or fracture. When the damage is done only to the tooth itself, it is called primary occlusal trauma. Secondary occlusal trauma occurs when such movement causes the tooth to become dislodged. When this happens, your tooth could become loose and fall out. Over time, the back-and-forth movement associated with clenching teeth at night can cause both primary and secondary occlusal trauma. Such trauma is not only painful, but it can make routine habits like eating and talking incredibly difficult.
How to Treat Bruxism
Bruxism is an easy condition to spot but because it is a mostly unconscious condition, it can be difficult for patients to treat on their own. If you think you are suffering from bruxism, call and make an appointment with us today. We will go over your preventive options, including fitting you for a mouthguard that will drastically reduce the effects of bruxism. From dental hygiene checkups to cosmetic dentistry, Ideal Dental Solutions is eager to help with your dental needs.