Bruxism, or the constant grinding of your teeth, can be a serious problem when you allow it to continue for too long. It’s true that your teeth and jaws were meant to clench and grind without sustaining damage. But, when there’s no food between them, the intense bite pressure can significantly wear down and damage your healthy tooth structure. Today, we take a look at what happens when you constantly grind your teeth, and how your dentist can help you avoid most of the more serious consequences.
You Constantly Grind Your Teeth but you Can’t Control It
If you grind your teeth when you’re stressed or in pain, then you’d be right not to consider it a warning sign of bruxism. As a tic, teeth-grinding isn’t dangerous. As a condition, though, bruxism can force you to grind your teeth at virtually any moment, and it can be so random that you may not even notice it if it does occur during the day. Because you can’t control bruxism alone, your teeth will continue to grind away at each other, wearing themselves down until they become damaged and/or forced out of alignment.
Common Causes and Cures
TMJ is often caused by misalignment of the teeth and/or the jaw. Bruxism, or nighttime teeth grinding, can be considered both a cause and a symptom of TMJ. Fortunately, the treatment for bruxism/TMJ is often as simple as fitting a patient with a custom mouth guard.
By sleeping with a night guard similar to the kind used during orthodontic treatment or athletic activity, many patients can eliminate their bruxism, helping to save their teeth a great deal of wear, and often eliminating many of the side effects caused by TMJ as well.
If you’re suffering from bruxism, in particular, you may experience the same symptoms listed above, but you could also wake feeling very tired, with severe headaches, have extremely sensitive teeth, or what is commonly referred to as “lockjaw.” Your partner may even have heard you grinding your teeth at night.
Exploring the Options
If a night guard is not effective, the dentist may recommend other forms of treatment, such as orthodontia or dental restorations, such as veneers that will stand up to tooth grinding, veneers that will replace tooth enamel lost from bruxism, or a dental implant to help preserve the teeth’s alignment after tooth loss.
Anytime you experience dental problems or symptoms, it is important to schedule a visit as soon as possible. This can help prevent further complications, and also allows the dentist to use less invasive treatments than if you wait until matters have worsened.
The Consequences of Bruxism
Worn and broken teeth are the obvious consequences of forcing your teeth to rub against each other multiple times a day. What may not be so obvious is how that tooth wear and damage affects the rest of your oral health. If your teeth become worn down, they won’t meet each other evenly when you bite down. This throws your jaw off balance, forcing it to work overtime to compensate. Before long, your jaw joints (TMJs) can become exhausted or damaged from the stress, leading to TMJ disorder and a host of symptoms like jaw pain, headaches, tinnitus, and more.
The Dangers of Bruxism
Of the many potential dangers your smile can face, bruxism is one of the less obvious until it starts to cause significant damage. For instance, you might not notice that you grind your teeth so much because many patients do it most often while they sleep. However, they might notice their teeth growing sensitive as the enamel is ground away, or their bites feeling off as their teeth’s chewing surfaces start wearing down. By then, your teeth may have suffered enough damage to require significant restoration.
What A Dentist Can Do
A restorative dentist can help by providing a custom-fit night guard, that can help keep your teeth and jaw in a more comfortable position as you sleep. This prevents grinding, and can often eliminate the symptoms associated with bruxism, as well as TMJ.
Some patients, however, need more extensive treatment. They may, for instance, benefit from orthodontic treatment to help improve the overall alignment of the teeth. Others might also need restorative treatment to deal with damage done by the grinding. Consulting with your dentist is the best way to determine the cause of your discomfort, the extent of damage done, and the best course of treatment, so you can move beyond bruxism and back to enjoying your sleep.
What to Do About It
Once you know you have bruxism, treating it will depend on several factors, including how much damage your teeth have already sustained (if any). If your teeth are significantly worn or damaged, then you may need an appropriate number of restorations such as porcelain crowns or veneers to rebuild the tooth structure. To protect your teeth and restoration, your dentist can also suggest a custom-designed bruxism appliance to stop your teeth from grinding together as you sleep.
Call Us if You Constantly Grind Your Teeth
When you grind your teeth constantly, the resulting pressure and friction can cause increasingly worse damage to your teeth and a progressively more severe impact on your oral health. To learn more, schedule a consultation by calling us at 847-234-0517. We also proudly serve residents of Chicago and all surrounding communities in the Chicago Metro area.