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Are You Grinding Your Teeth Away?

Are You Grinding Your Teeth Away

Do you think your teeth are shorter than they used to be?
Do you occasionally notice sharp edges and ask your dentist to “smooth them off”?
Do your front teeth look flat across? Do you have sore jaw muscles, or joints, or frequent headaches?
Do you notice gum recession and sensitive roots or sore teeth?

If you answer “yes” to any of the above questions, then you probably suffer from bruxism. Bruxism is defined as clenching or grinding of the teeth. The effects of this can range from minor to disastrous depending on the degree.

Most people would be surprised to learn that bruxism is a disease. It is considered a pathological process. In fact, there are only three disease processes that we deal with in dentistry. These are cavities, periodontal disease, and bruxism. Unfortunately, dentists historically have received much less training on how to deal with bruxism than with decay or periodontal disease. Not only does bruxism contribute to the seriousness of periodontal disease or cavities, it can by itself destroy a whole mouth of otherwise healthy teeth.

In this fast-paced world stress has often taken the blame for why people clench or grind their teeth Certainly stress is a factor. However, it is more involved than that. It is believed that some people are driven to grind or clench and nothing can stop them. Have you ever sat next to someone who can’t stop shaking his leg? A similar type of impulse is responsible in both situations.

For many people it is believed that there is a place where their jaw joint and jaw muscles are happy. In other words, this position is where the joint and muscles want to be and are under the least stress. If the way the teeth come together prevents this from happening, then the brain will try to eliminate the interferences. Unfortunately, the interferences are your teeth. This is a very brief explanation of a subject about which volumes have been written.

OK, so what can we do to treat bruxism in the 21st century? The good news is that today we can do a lot to prevent the ravages of bruxism and to treat the symptoms and repair the damage caused by bruxism. Any treatment should aim first to prevent further damage and to alleviate any unpleasant symptoms such as sore jaw joints, muscles, or headaches.

There are a variety of splints or guards that can be used to prevent further damage from bruxism and to alleviate headaches and jaw pain.

If there is already extensive damage to the teeth then some restorative options are available. For instance, worn off front teeth can be lengthened with bonding or veneers to avoid an aged appearance and provide a more normal function. Yes, shortened teeth make you look older. Restoring teeth to their normal length can take years off of your appearance. Usually, after treatment, a night guard should be worn to prevent wearing down or breaking the new restorations as happened to the original teeth.

Equilibration or selective grinding can eliminate some interferences and relieve undue pressure on certain teeth. This can help all of your teeth work together more like a team.
For more severe cases, however, it can be necessary to re-lengthen most or all of the teeth. This is a procedure that requires a high degree of skill and is much more involved than routine dental procedures.

So are you “grinding your teeth away’? If you are concerned that you may be having problems from bruxism, ask your dentist. Without proper treatment your problem will only get worse. With proper treatment, you can maintain the health and function of your teeth and preserve or achieve a youthful smile.
-Dr. Taylor

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