At some point in your life, you’ve probably shared a bed with someone who grinds their teeth. Maybe you are the teeth grinder! The National Institute of Health reported that approximately 20% of adults worldwide struggle with bruxism, the clinical term for grinding your teeth in your sleep. If you or someone you know struggles with teeth grinding issues, Advanced Dental Care of Anderson is here to inform you of the possible dental issues you may face as a result of teeth grinding.
Luckily, there are a number of dental treatment options available to combat teeth grinding issues and prevent the dental issues that can be caused by it. Here is everything that you need to know about teeth grinding issues and what you can do about it!
What Causes Teeth Grinding Issues at Night?
There are a number of things that can cause nightly teeth grinding issues, or bruxism, to occur. Bruxism can be caused by stress and anxiety, though it is often due to an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth. It can also be caused by sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
A November 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association even linked bruxism to alcohol and tobacco use. Most people grind and clench their teeth from time to time, but when it begins to occur on a regular basis, your teeth can become damaged and other oral health issues may arise.
What are the Common Symptoms of Teeth Grinding?
As teeth grinding generally takes place when you’re asleep, most people aren’t aware that it’s happening. Common symptoms of teeth grinding include dull headaches, ear pain, jaw soreness, inflamed and receding gums, muscle spasms in your jaw, painful or loose teeth, or even fractures in your teeth. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, check in with your dentist about the possibility of bruxism.
What Dental Issues Can Be Caused By Teeth Grinding at Night?
Grinding your teeth isn’t inherently dangerous, but chronic bruxism can lead to all sorts of other problems with your jaw and teeth. Let’s take a look at some of the most common dental issues caused by teeth grinding.
The most common long-term effect of bruxism is structural damage to your teeth. Regular teeth grinding can result in fracturing, loosening, or the loss of some of your teeth. As you put pressure on the top of your teeth while grinding them, that pressure is transmitted into the bone and eventually loose teeth can occur from chronic granular grinding of your teeth. Chronic teeth grinders may also wear their teeth down to stumps, which can only be fixed with bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, and dentures.
Bruxism also causes damage to your tooth enamel, the protective outer layer coating each of your teeth. Because enamel has no living cells or nerves, once it is damaged or destroyed, it cannot repair itself. This means that your teeth have no defense mechanisms against bacteria or chemicals. Once the enamel is damaged, as you continue to grind your teeth, stress fractures or craze lines almost always occur. This leaves the inside of your tooth exposed to more damage.
Inside your tooth, underneath the enamel, is a hard second layer known as the dentin. The dentin protects the innermost part of your tooth, called the pulp. This soft inner tissue houses the tooth’s nerve and blood vessels. As the enamel erodes and the tooth cracks, the pulp of your tooth is exposed, causing any movement of your mouth and jaw to jostle the pulp, irritating and damaging it. Wearing down your enamel also leaves the dentin and pulp more vulnerable to bacteria, which can cause irreparable damage.
Issues with the Jaw
Another serious problem chronic teeth grinders face is issues with their jaw. Bruxism, when untreated, can cause jaw misalignment, fatigued jaw joints, cause or worsen temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ syndrome), and even change the appearance of your face.
Jaw misalignment can cause further structural damage to your teeth and severe joint pain. TMJ syndrome is an umbrella term encompassing pain and dysfunction in the mastication muscles (the muscles that move the jaw) and the temporomandibular joints (which connect your jaw to your skull). The most common symptom is jaw pain, though people with TMJ syndrome also have difficulty moving their jaw.
TMJ syndrome caused by teeth grinding issues can cause serious issues for any activity involved in jaw movement. In extreme cases, the disks in your jaw joints can become damaged from habitual teeth grinding, meaning that the bone rubs on bone every time your jaw moves, which will eventually lead to arthritis.
Masticatory Muscle Hypertrophy
In extreme cases, chronic teeth grinding can lead to changes in face shape. This is known as masticatory muscle hypertrophy, meaning your jaw muscles increase in size, noticeably so, due to overtraining.
James Mah, a professor of clinical science at the University of Nevada, explains it this way: “With people who have sleep bruxism, the muscles go into hyper-function. Much like a bodybuilder that’s doing repetitive exercise day after day, the muscles enlarge.” This leads to what is colloquially referred to as ‘square face syndrome’; your jaw can take on a more square-like appearance due to the strengthening of the muscles.
Other Dental Problems Caused By Teeth Grinding Issues
Other long-term effects of teeth grinding include potentially damaging saliva glands due to overdeveloped masseter muscles, the facial muscles involved in chewing. Sufferers of chronic teeth grinding often have issues with chewing, which can lead to digestive issues. Partially chewed food can lead to an accumulation of digestive acid, which causes heartburn, reflux, and indigestion.
People who suffer from bruxism also generally cannot receive dental implants, artificial teeth used to replace a natural tooth that needed to be removed. This treatment is generally favored by dentists, but it is not possible for teeth grinders as they may grind the device into their gum line and do further damage to their jaw.
Treatment Options for Teeth Grinding Issues
If you or someone you know suffers from teeth grinding issues, there are a plethora of available treatments. Most dentists prescribe mouth guards to teeth grinders to wear when they sleep, which help to protect their teeth and jaw from any further damage. As bruxism is generally caused by stress, most dentists recommend trying to find a way to reduce your stress, whether simply avoiding caffeine and alcohol or by seeking other treatments.
Be sure you’re not chewing on anything that isn’t food, including gum, as it allows your muscles to become accustomed to clenching and increases the likelihood that you will develop bruxism. You can also train yourself not to clench or grind your teeth by positioning the tip of your tongue between your teeth anytime you notice yourself doing it. This practice teaches your jaw muscles to relax.
You can encourage your jaw muscles to relax at night by holding a warm compress against your cheek, just in front of your ear. In some severe cases, your dentist may prescribe muscle relaxers to take before bed.
Contact the Most Trusted Dental Practice in Anderson
If you are worried that you may be suffering from teeth grinding issues at night, give us a call at Advanced Dental Care of Anderson! With over 25 years in dental practice, we have the knowledge and experience required to handle all of your dental needs. Teeth grinding can be a frustrating thing to experience, but we can help you receive the treatment you deserve and prevent future dental issues.
Photo by Yohann LIBOT on Unsplash