As many as 1 in 5 Americans are estimated to clench or grind their teeth, a condition known by dentists as bruxism. Are you one of them? At least 20% grind or clench and aren’t even aware of it!
Clenching and grinding can cause serious damage to your teeth. Fort Worth dentist Dr. Nikki Green is dedicated to the long-term health of your teeth, and preventing or treating clenching and grinding is part of that process.
Why Do People Clench and Grind Their Teeth?
Almost everyone clenches or grinds their teeth at some point. Stress is often a factor. Some people, however, grind or clench their teeth even when they aren’t stressed or during their sleep. This long-term unconscious bruxism is what causes the most damage.
One of the reasons behind this type of bruxism is a misaligned bite. When your teeth don’t line up correctly, it causes the jaw to shift slightly, putting too much pressure on one side of your mouth. Your muscles become stressed and strained and try to relieve the pressure, and the clenching and grinding process starts.
How Can You Tell if You’ve Been Clenching or Grinding?
Do you have any of these issues?
- An aching jaw
- Pain in the temporomandibular joint (the joint where your lower jaw connects to your skull)
- Ear pain
- A sensation that your teeth are loose
- Noticeable erosion or shortening of your teeth
- Tooth sensitivity
- Complaints from your partner about a grinding noise at night
These are all signs and symptoms of bruxism. When you come in for an evaluation, Dr. Green will look for the signs that are apparent to dentists that you may not be aware of, such as:
- Erosion of your dental enamel
- Inflammation in your temporomandibular joint
- Chips or cracks in your teeth
- Flattening or wearing down of the grooves in your back teeth
- Damage to your cheek
- Indentations on your tongue
If you are diagnosed with bruxism, Dr. Green will recommend a treatment plan for you to prevent further damage. She may also suggest treatments to repair the damage that has already been done.
Do I Have to Treat My Clenching and Grinding?
Treatment is always up to you. Dr. Green will recommend treatment, but you always make the final choice.
Before you make your decision, however, you should consider the long-term consequences of bruxism.
When untreated, bruxism often leads to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMJ), a dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint. This condition is painful and also causes grinding and locking in the joint. It may require surgery to correct.
Our jaws are designed to exert a great deal of force to allow us to break down the foods we eat. When this amount of force is applied over a long period of time to our own teeth, the results can be devastating. Chipped and fractured teeth are a common result of bruxism and will require dental restorations to repair them. Clenching and grinding your teeth can also cause loose teeth, and, eventually, missing teeth.
Clenching and grinding is also associated with migraines. In some people, the muscle tension in the temples caused by the clenching sets off the nerves in that area and triggers migraine headaches.
If you clench and grind, you may not be a good candidate for cosmetic procedures such as veneers since the pressure from the bruxism can damage the veneers or cause them to dislodge from your teeth.
How Can We Treat Clenching and Grinding?
A number of solutions are available that can help with the problem of grinding and clenching your teeth. First, Dr. Green will ask you a number of questions to identify the reasons why you clench.
If stress is a reason why you clench, learning better ways to stay calm and better manage your stress can help reduce the clenching. Breathing techniques, focused exercise (like yoga), and positive self-talk are all effective ways to manage stress. It may also be helpful to consult with a mental health professional to learn even more ways to deal with excessive stress.
Is your clenching and grinding because of poor jaw alignment or teeth that are crooked? We can discuss options like Invisalign or even oral surgery to fix this problem and help to save your teeth.
In many cases, oral appliance therapy is effective for clenching and grinding your teeth. You simply wear an oral appliance (often called a night guard) while you sleep. Different types of appliances are available, and they work in different ways. Some appliances absorb the force of the clenching and grinding to protect your teeth, and others are designed to hold your jaws in a position where they can’t touch, which helps to prevent the tension in the muscles that leads to grinding and clenching.
Call to Schedule Your Evaluation
If you suspect that you have been grinding or clenching your teeth (or if your partner has commented about the noise it causes while you sleep), please call Fort Worth Cosmetic & Family Dentistry today at (817) 737-6601 to schedule your appointment with Dr. Green.