Grinding your teeth, either consciously, out of frustration, or unconsciously, while you sleep at night, might seem like an innocent habit. But, persistent teeth grinding, or bruxism, can have a number of negative effects on the health of your teeth and gums. It can also affect your appearance and might make certain conditions worse. If you do grind your teeth regularly, your dentist can help you figure out the best way to prevent or stop the habit. He can also recommend treatments, such as implants to replace damaged teeth, as needed.
Wear and Tear on the Teeth
One of the more obvious things that can happen if you regularly grind your teeth is that the teeth can wear away. Bruxism wears away the enamel on your teeth more quickly, with people who grind regularly likely to lose as much as 0.2 mm of enamel over the course of just a few years. Along with wearing away the enamel, consistent teeth grinding can cause small fractures or chips in the teeth and can chip any fillings you might have. As the enamel continues to wear down, it can lead to nerve damage in the tooth.
The pressure placed on your teeth from bruxism can also cause them to become loose or to fall out. People who grind their teeth for years on end are likely to wear them down to small stumps. In more extreme cases, dental implants might be necessary to replace teeth that have been severely affected by bruxism.
Pressure from bruxism can also cause the gums to pull back, or recede from the teeth. Receding gums can be an issue for several reasons. For one thing, they make a person look older, as more of the tooth is exposed. Gum recession also makes it more difficult for a person to clean the teeth, making it more likely for bacteria to collection between the teeth and gums, which can lead to tooth loss over time. Receding gums can also make the teeth more sensitive, as part of the tooth that was once covered by gum tissue is now exposed.
The temporomandibular joint, often shortened to TMJ, is what people clench when they grind their teeth. Persistent teeth grinding and clenching of the TMJ can lead to the development of TMJ disorder. TMJ disorders occur for a number of reasons and aren’t only related to grinding. Along with pain in the face, near the jaw and ear, a key symptom of a TMJ disorder is a clicking or popping sound when a person tries to chew or open his or her mouth. The disorder can also make it very painful to open the mouth or difficult to chew.
A TMJ disorder will most likely go away then the underlying cause is treated. If you believe your TMJ problem is related to bruxism, finding a way to control your teeth grinding can help minimize the discomfort of the disorder. A bite guard, which is commonly used to control bruxism, can help alleviate the pain of TMJ disorder, too.
Bruxism and Sleep Apnea
A study from 2008 found that one quarter of people who suffered from obstructive sleep apnea were also likely to suffer from bruxism. Although the connection between the two conditions isn’t fully explained, it seems that people with sleep apnea are more likely to engage in habits that increase their risk for teeth grinding. For example, a person with sleep apnea might feel sleepy during the day, because he or she isn’t getting a full night’s sleep. To correct the sleepiness, he or she might consume more caffeine. Caffeine consumption is thought to play a part in the development of bruxism.
Along with more severe issues such as wear on the teeth and TMJ disorders, bruxism can lead to a number of other problems. It’s not uncommon for people who grind their teeth to experience headaches or facial pain on a regular basis. Over time, the condition can also lead to hearing loss. The pressure placed on the teeth and gums can alter the shape or position of a person’s bite, and cause changes in the appearance of his or her face, as well.
While there are many solutions to the issues that bruxism can cause, such as treatment for receding gums or implants to replace damaged teeth, the most important thing to do is to treat the bruxism, to keep the issues from progressing or returning. In Miami, periodontists Dr. John Paul Gallardo can help you control your teeth grinding and can treat any problems that have occurred because of it. To schedule an appointment with the dentists, call (305) 447-1447 today.