Are you grinding your teeth? Surprisingly, most are not aware of this habit.
Ideally, upper and lower jaws should always be slightly apart....never held tighly together.
Due to increased stress, teeth grinding or clenching is a common and destructive problem.
This picture is an example of severely worn down teeth. Obviously, you would notice this much damage!
Thankfully, this can be avoided.
Damage occurs gradually and can be prevented.
But, it is important to be aware of subtle changes that indicate teeth clenching and grinding.
Headaches and neck aches ~ Constantly engaged facial muscles can give you a headache or neck ache.
Waking up with muscle soreness is a big indication of teeth grinding or clenching in your sleep.
TMJ ~ Teeth that are worn flat don't help this complicated joint stay in the proper position and could lead to TMJ disorders also known as TMD.
Worn teeth look flat on the edges and chewing surfaces.
Instead of rounded edges and cusp tips, teeth appear flat, smaller and square.
The layer of tooth under enamel is called dentin.
Once enamel is worn away, dentin is exposed. Dentin is a darker color than enamel.
Because dentin is softer it wears away even faster, is more sensitive and decays easier than enamel.
Worn down teeth are more prone to cavities.
Have you noticed that your canine or "eye" teeth (the pointy ones) are longer and sharper than the others?
Their job is to keep the other teeth from hitting and protect them from wear.
Because they are longer, eye teeth are the first to get worn down from grinding. Once they are worn flat, the process of attrition continues on your molars and pre-molars.
For years dentists believed brushing too hard caused receding gums. Now we know that clenching and grinding are also major causes of this condition. More about what causes receding gums here.
The constant pressure and lateral force clenching and grinding place on your teeth causes gums to recede.
When gums recede, teeth are likely to be sensitive to cold air, cold drinks, or cold food.
Some receded gums require treatment while others can just be monitored.
Clenching teeth causes abfraction - the wearing away of enamel near your gum line.
Abfraction looks and feels like a groove near the gum line.
Abfracted teeth are more vulnerable to cavities and can be sensitive. These defects in the teeth may need to be restored with a filling.
Even when the original reasons for clenching and grinding are gone the habit is already in place and many times continues to occur.
Because it almost always occurs during sleep, grinding teeth is very difficult to stop.
Daytime clenching and grinding teeth is much easier to stop. When you catch yourself, try sugarless gum, mints or hold a toothpick between your teeth.
With your dentist's help, address potential causes.
For help with teeth grinding while you are sleeping, try this relaxing home remedy.
You may not be able to stop this habit but you can stop the damage.
For some, a night guard or bruxism guard is recommended.
There are two basic types of guards to choose from. Over the counter guards or custom made by a dentist.
Next ~ OTC vs custom night guard