Complications of Grinding

Pressures of the Daily (and Nightly) Grind

Some people do it to relieve stress. Others do it because of the way their teeth fit together.  Some do it when they're awake. Others do it while they are asleep.   

For whatever reason, and no matter when you do it, "bruxing" or habitual clenching or grinding your upper and lower teeth together can lead to serious complications.

Although I have addressed this problem in the past, the December 4th issue of Newsweek carried an article that made me believe the message bears repeating. According to reporter John Sedwick, as life becomes increasingly pressure packed an increasing number of Americans are taking out their troubles on their teeth. Noshir Mehta, a professor at the Pain Center at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine who was interviewed for the article states " almost everybody grinds their teeth sometime, but as much as 20 percent of the population now grind their teeth destructively... Teeth grinding may sound like a joke, but it can be a major pain. With no food to absorb the impact, and no conscience to exert control, nocturnal teeth-grinding is powerful enough to crack a walnut: at 250 lbs per square inch, the pressure is ten times the force registered during normal chewing. It also impacts the teeth at odd angles, making it especially destructive: and it can last all night. The results can be horrifying. Some front teeth can be warn down nearly to the gum line. Other teeth are cracked, or they are snapped off entirely, or they get a hairline fracture that feels like a toothache but is impossible for the dentist to see. All the grinding and clenching can cause migraine like headaches and nagging muscle soreness as well, and it is a major contributor to more severe temporal mandibular joint (TMJ) disorders."

TMJ disorders involve complications with the way the jaw muscles, bones and ligaments work together.

There are several treatments available for bruxism. These include special splints or bite plates. Depending on what time you generally do the majority of your bruxing, your dentist will design the appliance to be worn during sleep or at various times during the day.

Malocclusion, a problem with the way your teeth fit together when the mouth is closed, can trigger persistent tooth clenching. If bruxing is caused by a malocclusion, the problem can often be successfully treated with braces or other dental procedures such as adjusting the teeth causing the problem.

If you habitually clench or grind your teeth you should consult your dentist. 

Dr. Stephen Petras

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