Teeth grinding is also known by the medical term bruxism. While it might seem like a harmless problem, teeth grinding is actually a serious threat to your oral health for a variety of reasons. Teeth grinding may have a number of underlying causes, and it is important that your dentist identify them and correct the problem as soon as possible. For more information on the dangers of teeth grinding, read our handy guide below.
What are the dangers of teeth grinding?
Teeth grinding can result in a number of dental health problems, particularly if it is allowed to continue over a long period of time. Bruxism that is left untreated can lead to damaged and broken teeth, loosened teeth, or even tooth loss. If your bruxism is severe, you may even wear your teeth down more than usual, leading to exposed tooth roots or teeth that are worn down to nothing more than stumps, which can cause difficulty in chewing or speaking properly. Over time, teeth grinding may also lead to changes in your facial or jaw structure, TMJ, and even hearing loss.
What are the symptoms of teeth grinding?
It can be difficult to know if you are grinding your teeth, particularly if the grinding is taking place at night, during your sleep. Family members may complain of the noise if you are grinding your teeth at night, or you may notice that you have tenderness in your mouth or face. If you notice these symptoms contact your dentist right away:
- Teeth that are worn, flattened, or chipped
- Worn tooth enamel
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Jaw pain, or a feeling of tightness in your jaw muscles and face
- Earache due to severe jaw muscle contractions
- Chronic facial pain
- Indentations on your tongue
- Damage to the inside of your cheek from chewing
What are the causes of teeth grinding?
Teeth grinding isn’t completely understood by medical science yet. There may be a number of conditions that lead to teeth grinding, both physical and psychological, including:
- Stress, tension, or anxiety
- Suppressed frustration and anger
- Hyperactive personality (ADHD)
- Aggressive or competitive personality (Type-A)
- Improper alignment of the upper and lower teeth
- Complications arising from Huntington’s or Parkinson’s disease
- Certain medications and antidepressants (uncommon)
- Use of substances such as caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol
- Illegal drug use, particularly of methamphetamine or ecstasy.
How will your dentist address teeth grinding issues?
If you suspect that you are grinding your teeth, or if a loved one has told you that you grind your teeth at night, it is important that you see your dentist as soon as possible. They will perform a thorough examination and look for the cause of your bruxism. Once they have identified the cause of your teeth grinding, they can recommend dental treatments to remedy these issues. They may also recommend that you wear a night guard in order to prevent any more damage from occurring to your teeth, or they may place splints over your teeth for a time to help prevent you from grinding your teeth. In some cases, they may also prescribe muscle relaxants in order to help you stop grinding your teeth. If your teeth grinding has resulted as a side effect of an antidepressant or other medication that you need to take regularly, your doctor will likely change your medication.
How can you prevent teeth grinding at home?
Once your dentist has remedied the underlying physical issues behind your teeth grinding, there are a number of things you can do at home to prevent further instances of teeth grinding. Stress is a common cause of bruxism, so taking measures to reduce your stress levels can help. Make sure you are getting plenty of exercise, and consider enrolling in yoga classes. Participating in relaxing practices such as meditation or Tai-Chi can also be an excellent way to reduce your stress levels. If there is an emotional issue that you are having difficulty addressing that may be causing you to grind your teeth, consider talking to your doctor or seeking therapy for the issue. You may also need to avoid caffeine, sugary foods, and chewing gum. If you notice the muscles in your jaw tightening, you may want to apply a lukewarm washcloth to your jaw to help relax the muscles.
If you know or suspect you are suffering from bruxism, don’t simply put up with it. Going without treatment can lead to serious dental issues that will require further, and in some cases expensive, dental treatments. Call Kenneth Hill, DDS today at (702) 897-7267 to schedule a consultation. Our caring staff has treated many cases of teeth grinding over the years and can help correct any underlying issues that may be causing you to grind your teeth.