Preparing for an exam? Have an important interview in the upcoming week? Waiting for test results? In stressful situations like these, we often find ourselves biting our nails or grinding our teeth in anticipation. While grinding or clenching your teeth may appear harmless over a short period of time, it’s ability to become a habit proves to endure long-term consequences on your health. According to the Canadian Sleep Association, about 8% of adults and 13% of children have developed the habit of grinding their teeth, a condition medically known as bruxism.
Bruxism is detrimental to not only your teeth and oral health but also to your physical health and wellbeing. Many people, especially those who grind their teeth while asleep, are unaware of their actions. Therefore, it is essential to catch bruxism during its early stages, before it causes permanent damage.
This article discusses various dental and physical health problems that may arise as a result of disregarded bruxism.
Excessive teeth grinding flattens your teeth and alters its appearance. As a result, the teeth appear shorter in length and have an irregular shape. This can have a direct influence on your smile and facial aesthetics.
One of the most common complaints observed in people who grind their teeth are progressive headaches in a variety of severity. When you grind your teeth, the muscles of your face and jaw remain under constant pressure and stress. Overtime, these muscles become fatigued and as a result, form headaches.
- Sensitive Teeth
Enamel is an important layer on the tooth that shields and preserves the tooth. It protects our teeth from sensitivity to hot or cold substances and performs several vital tasks for our oral health. However, every time you grind your teeth, a very fine layer of the enamel is removed or damaged. If the habit continues to remain unchecked, the entire enamel layer may be destroyed and as a result, the underlying sensitive dentine and pulp layers are exposed to harsh environments. Your teeth are then vulnerable to more diseases and sensitivity that ultimately end in pain.
- Teeth Cracks
People with bruxism often complain of having vertical hairline fractures on their teeth. These cracks are the result of excessive pressure which comes from teeth grinding. Unfortunately, these cracks also signify that your teeth have become very weak and vulnerable to larger fractures or cracks. This may even result in the loss of fillings, crowns, teeth bridges, or removable dentures.
- Difficulty in Chewing
Our teeth play a crucial role in the digestive tract by mechanically breaking down food into smaller pieces. Excessive teeth grinding gradually flattens the teeth, weakening their ability to break down the food for proper digestion. This can directly affect your physical health since the food cannot be digested properly, leading to indigestion and other digestion-related conditions.
- Periodontal Problems
Teeth grinding places immense pressure on not only your face muscles, but also on the structures supporting your teeth—the periodontal ligament and the jawbone. Bruxism can lead to inflammation of the pulp and the periodontal ligament, making the teeth loose while within their sockets. If bruxism is not treated as soon as it is detected, it can also result in tooth loss.
- Temporomandibular Joint Problems
Both teeth clenching and grinding puts excessive pressure on your jaw joints, also known as the temporomandibular joints (TMJ). The joints remain in an unnatural position when you forcefully close your mouth to grind or clench your teeth. People with bruxism often have TMJ problems such as clicking sounds, jaw dislocation, and limited or painful mouth opening and closing.
The treatment of bruxism involves identification and the elimination of the underlying cause (e.g. anxiety, sleep disorders, etc.). Therefore, treatment must involve a team effort by us, your doctor, and potentially a psychiatrist. To prevent your teeth from further damage, our team prepares custom-made nightguards for you to wear while you sleep. These guards are worn over the teeth and protect the tooth surface from further loss during tooth grinding.
Teeth grinding/clenching is a habit that is often disregarded and undermined. However, it has significant consequences that lead to pain and potential long-term effects to your health. If you suspect that you have bruxism, please visit us immediately for diagnosis and treatment. From a simple checkup, we can minimize the effects and future consequences of teeth grinding so that your dental and physical health remain excellent.