Many people grind their teeth and don’t realize it. Other people know, but don’t know why it’s a big deal. What you don’t know can’t hurt you, right? WRONG!
Generally, when people chew they are using between 10-30 pounds of pressure on their teeth. But “clenchers” and “grinders” are exerting up to 250 pounds of pressure on their teeth according to Dr Sharon Albright.
The causes of clenching and grinding are mainly stress and anxiety, but other factors such as caffeine, alcohol consumption, poor bite, ability to relax, posture, and sleeping habits play a role as well (Paul Fotek, DMD).
Some of the problems with grinding, or medically called bruxism include:
- Headaches and soreness in the jaw.
- Damage to teeth, dental work and jaw; including cracked teeth or crowns and fillings falling out.
- Worn teeth more vulnerable to harboring bacteria, which will lead to cavities, fillings and possibly extractions.
- Tooth sensitivity and mobility—even possibly leading to loosing teeth.
- Change in facial shape. As teeth get worn, they get shorter and therefore shorten the distance between chin and nose. Also the muscles along the jowl, the masseter muscles, will bulk up and give a more square appearance.
- Overdeveloped masseter muscles can block the opening of the saliva glands and therefore can cause swelling, pain, inflammation and abnormal dryness of the mouth (Noshir Mehta).
To fix any of these problems can easily add up to thousands of dollars. Fortunately. there are preventive measures that are much less expensive. Obviously stress reduction and anxiety management will be highly beneficial for good health, but most dentists will suggest a night guard or even inject Botox to relax the tense muscle. Adjusting the bite through orthodontics has also been an approach for treating bruxism. Dr Deb Fung can do these treatments as well as perform laser therapy to instantly reduce pain in the jaw.