Teeth grinding is a common condition in which the act of grinding your teeth causes wear and associated oral problems. Most people tend not to notice that they are damaging their teeth as it often happens at night whilst you are sleeping. Sometimes it can be so loud that it wakes your partner up! Here are some signs to show if you are grinding your teeth at night.
1. Your teeth look worn, damaged, or chipped
Grinding your teeth will slowly wear them away and this is not often immediately noticeable as it’s a slow process, so you won’t wake up one morning and think, “Where have my teeth gone?”. It can sometimes become so severe that you lose up to 80% of your tooth. If there are thin edges, these can fracture off leaving sharp, jagged bits of your teeth. Alternatively your teeth may look worn and smooth.
Worn teeth are weaker than healthy teeth and often look discoloured as well.
2. You wake up with a headache
The action of grinding your teeth is performed by clenching your muscles. These include the temporal muscles which can get overloaded and this can manifest as a headache.
3. Your jaw hurts
During eating, the muscles of the jaw perform normal function. When the muscles are utilized in this normal function this adds up to less than an hour a day, and the actual activity is pretty low. However, during grinding your muscles are overloaded using strong force for a considerable amount of time. They can become strained and this will manifest as muscular or jaw pain which is referred to as TMJD (Temporo-mandibular-joint-dysfunction). An analogy that I often tell my patients is that imagine if you clenched your fist the whole night. When you wake up in the morning its going to be very sore and if this happens on a daily basis you’re going to be in a lot of pain – TMJD is a pretty similar condition.
4. Your teeth are sensitive
Tooth grinding will cause you to wear away the protective enamel coating on your teeth. This coating is the strongest thing in your body and it protects the nerve from sensitivity. Once the enamel is worn away, the inside of your tooth is exposed, which can lead to sensitivity.
5. Your teeth are loose
The trauma caused by tooth grinding can cause your teeth to move position and become loose. If you have gum disease this condition is exacerbated even further and the effects can occur quickly.
What are the treatment options available if I have worn teeth?
The treatment will depend on the severity of tooth wear, the causes, and your treatment goals. Simple cases (if caught early) can be treated with building up your teeth with composite (white) filling material. If severe – porcelain crowns or veneers can be used to replace the lost tooth tissue. If your wear is significant you may need teeth extracted.
Night guards are also effective at stopping you from wearing your teeth away.