Everyone grinds and clenches their teeth on occasion, but people who start clenching and grinding their teeth on a regular basis significantly increase the risk of tooth damage and other oral health complications. Along with wearing down the teeth, chronic teeth grinding can erode the enamel, loosen teeth, and even crack, chip or fracture them. Teeth surfaces that have been compromised by grinding are more susceptible to bacteria infusion that can lead to tooth decay. Chronic grinding and clenching can also lead to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), a painful condition that impedes the proper movement of your jaw.
Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding affects anywhere between 8 percent to 31 percent of American adults, according to various studies. While the rate of chronic teeth grinding in children is thought to be higher than adults, most children outgrow teeth grinding by early adolescence.
Signs of Teeth Grinding
Because most teeth grinding occurs during the night while asleep, many people may not realize that they have a chronic problem until damage starts setting in. Many teeth grinders learn about their condition from a loved one who hears the grinding during the night. Waking up with a dull headache of sore jaw on a periodic or regular basis may also be a noticeable symptom of bruxism. And your dentist may notice signs of excessive wear on your teeth.
Causes of Teeth Grinding
Chronic stress is considered a leading cause of bruxism, as involuntary tension causes the muscles in the face and jaw to expand and contract. Ironically, some antidepressant drugs (such as Prozac and Zoloft) that inhibit serotonin uptake, have a side effect believed to induce teeth grinding. Those with an abnormal bite, or missing or crooked teeth, are believed to be more susceptible to bruxism.
Along with stress, genetics are also thought to play a role in clenching and grinding. Grinding can also become an ingrained habit, that is hard to stop even after the removal of stressors or stimulus. Furthermore, researchers in recent years have also focused on the link between sleep apnea and bruxism.
It appears that teeth grinding may be a bodily defense mechanism that helps reopen blocked airways caused by sleep apnea. The blocked airways in sleep apnea happen during the deepest stages of sleep due to the full relaxation of the jaw and tongue. The grinding helps move them away from the airways, allowing for normal breathing, but results in disrupted sleep. Patients with sleep apnea given a dental appliance that holds the jaw in place, prevented both the apnea as well as the subsequent grinding.
If you suspect that you are suffering from chronic teeth grinding, be sure to tell your dental health practitioner. Your dentist will assess your teeth and jaw for any damages that might be occurring, and might suggest using a custom-fitted night guard that protects teeth from excessive grinding. If you suspect that sleep apnea might be the cause, make sure you talk to your doctor to ensure that both conditions will be successfully treated. If you believe it is stress related, talk to your doctor and dentist about stress-reducing options. Small lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, can lower stress levels and perhaps reduce the chronic grinding.
The dental professionals at Naples, Florida-based Gulfside Dental can assess your teeth to determine if you might be suffering from chronic teeth grinding, and whether it is causing any oral health impacts. Gulfside Dental provides a full range of dental care services, including treatment of bruxism, and has been helping people in southwest Florida maintain their oral health for more than 30 years. Learn how Gulfside Dental can help you with all your oral health needs by contacting our office today at (239) 774-3017, or by scheduling an appointment via our online appointment portal.