When Clenching Teeth Becomes an Issue

Your teeth go through enough stress in one day with biting and chewing your food, but for some people, that pressure is multiplied by constant clenching and grinding. Clinically known as bruxism, the habit of clenching your teeth may not produce any symptoms, or it may wear down your teeth enough to damage them or throw your bite off balance. The most common forms occur while patients are asleep (sleep bruxism), and they’re often unaware of their condition, much less able to consciously stop it. Luckily, tooth wear and other signs of the condition are among the many things that your Lake Forest dentist looks for during your routine dental checkup and cleaning.

Signs and Symptoms of Bruxism

A sign is something that Dr. Fondriest can look for to signify the presence of bruxism, while a symptom is something you experience as a result of the condition. Dr. Fondriest might suspect habitual teeth grinding if he notices excessively worn teeth, weak enamel that exposes the tooth’s underlying layers, or cracked/fractured teeth. Symptoms that you might experience include;

  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Sore, sensitive, or tight jaw and facial muscles
  • Chronic headaches, especially when waking up in the morning
  • Frequently biting the inside of your cheek
  • Ringing and pain in the ears (tinnitus) as a result of jaw muscle contractions

You may experience all, some, or none of these symptoms, but maintaining a diligent schedule of six-month dental checkups will help Dr. Fondriest keep an eye on your teeth for potential signs of trouble.

Common Causes and Risk Factors

In many respects, bruxism is still a mystery to medical and dental doctors, mainly what exactly drives the habit. Chronic stress and anxiety are commonly observed risk factors, as are crooked teeth and an imbalanced jawbone. Teeth grinding is also a side effect of some medications, like antidepressants, and a complication of some illnesses. If you’re under an unusual amount of stress, require orthodontic treatment, smoke tobacco, drink caffeine, have a congenitally asymmetrical jawbone, or have been diagnosed with TMJ disorder, then you may be at an increased risk for bruxism.

Issues Associated with Teeth Clenching

Your tooth enamel is the most resilient substance your body produces. Comprised of super-long, super-strong strands of mineral crystals, enamel can withstand the consistent pressure of biting and chewing food while protecting your teeth from harmful bacteria. When they rub against each other with no food between them, your teeth can strip each other of enamel, leaving them vulnerable to infectious tooth decay and the cavities they form. Under the strain, your teeth can also develop cracks and fractures, or pieces of your teeth can chip or break off. One of the most common issues associated with bruxism, though, involves the joints and muscles that power your jaw’s movement.

TMJ disorder describes a problem with your temporomandibular joints (TMJs), the joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull. The joints can become inflamed or misaligned, or the disk can develop a perforation, usually due to an unreasonable amount of pressure. The trauma of constant tension makes bruxism a leading factor for TMJ disorder.

How to Treat Bruxism

How Dr. Fondriest treats your clenching teeth habit depends on its cause and whether or not any teeth need restoring due to dental damage. For some patients, stress management techniques can help relieve their physical tension and symptoms of bruxism. If a tooth is cracked or broken, then Dr. Fondriest may recommend a dental crown to reinforce the tooth and prevent it from fracturing further. Crooked teeth, which can throw your bite off balance and agitate your jaw muscles, can be corrected with orthodontic treatment, and a mouthguard can be custom-crafted to protect your teeth while you sleep at night.

About Your Lake Forest Dentist:

Aside from providing expert family and cosmetic dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.

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