Teeth Grinding, Clenching and Bruxism. Part I


female anger concept - angry beautiful 20s girl grinding her teeth threatening someone,showing aggressiveness,closeup in studio
female anger concept – angry beautiful 20s girl grinding her teeth threatening someone,showing aggressiveness,closeup in studio

Did you know that…as many as 50-90% of adults experience Bruxism (teeth grinding) in their life, 15% of children acquired this behavior as well. Some people are unaware of this habit until they have a dental exam. It could happen while you sleep or even during the day, while exercising or focusing on school or work.

Bruxism is the term given to clenching or grinding of the teeth, that means pressing your top and bottom teeth together, or sliding your jaw side to side. Some of the signs are worn out enamel, fractured or chipped teeth, flattened teeth, chewing the inside of your cheek, headaches, pain closed to your ears, fatigue or sore jaw.

Causes associated with bruxism are usually stress, anxiety, anger, tension, hyperactivity, side effect of medications, sleep disorders, stomach acid reflux or uneven alignment of the teeth. Other risk factors are smoking, caffeine or use of stimulant drugs.

It is very important to have a dental exam at least once a year and to have a Nightguard fabricated by your dentist to prevent damage to your teeth when clenching or grinding.

Clenching or Grinding can lead to teeth sensitivity to either cold or hot drinks. The forces of the jaw while pressing your teeth together, break down tiny pieces of enamel, exposing the inner layer called dentin. Dentin is the layer closer to the tooth nerve, therefore any part that isn’t cover by enamel, will have closer proximity to the nerve and create that electric shooting feeling when drinking or eating something cold such as ice cream or having a hot soup.

If you clench, enamel usually breaks down where the tooth meets the gum, creating a V notch concave area, this is called “Abfraction”. The dentin has a yellow hue color to it, so you will notice the difference of color with your enamel.  If you grind side to side, the area worn out will be the edge of your teeth, and it could appear yellowish as well, but this time your teeth will have a flat smooth surface. Typical look of elderly people might be a flat worn out dentition.

Some of the solutions to bruxism include wearing a nightguard to sleep, which will act as a cushion to your teeth. Nightguards are  custom made at the dental office for optimum results and fit your teeth perfectly. They can also be bought over the counter, but this is not recommended as it will most likely not fit your mouth properly, putting undesired pressure on your temporo-mandibular joint and causing unwanted pain or problems. Other solution is doing botox in specific jaw muscles. This will help specially if you experience soreness on your jaw muscles or get frequent headaches derived from bruxism. Botox relaxes the muscle and will stop your jaw from putting pressure on your teeth. Remember botox is temporary, so you will have to repeat application after a few months. In the other hand, a costume made nightguard could last about 5 years or more, and in every dental appointment, it could be checked and adjusted to make sure it keeps functioning properly. 

If you are concerned with those yellow concave areas where the teeth meet the gum, a simple resin restoration to match your enamel color could be done, but, if you keep clenching or grinding, the pressure on your teeth will most likely break the restoration, therefore a nightguard should always be used.  

Remember, prevention is the key to a healthy lifelong smile.

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