We all get stressed out once in awhile. And when we do, our mental stress can actually create physical symptoms including grinding or clenching of the teeth, a condition called bruxism. It can happen during the day or night… and it may be mild enough to be completely unnoticeable, or can be severe enough to lead to headaches, jaw disorders, damaged teeth or other dental problems.
Bruxism (teeth grinding) is more common during sleep, occurring equally among women and men, and appears to be exaggerated among people who experience airway resistance, causing breathing difficulties during sleep. Nighttime tooth grinding can produce excessive forces of up to 250 lbs. per square inch; enough pressure to crack a walnut!
Pain from grinding?
Our upper and lower teeth are supposed to “mesh” together smoothly, engaging only when chewing. However, abnormal grinding or clenching can have a negative effect on teeth, gums, bones and the jaw. In typical cases of bruxism, the canines and incisors are moved against each other laterally, i.e. with a side-to-side action by the lateral muscles that lie above and to the sides behind the mouth. Such lateral movements can abrade the tooth enamel, removing the biting surfaces and flattening the edges of the teeth.While tooth enamel subjected to life’s normal stresses can wear down at a rate of approximately 0.3 millimetres every ten years or so, it’s not uncommon for people suffering from bruxism to experience 2.0 millimetres of enamel erosion by the time they reach their mid-twenties.
Bruxism is a leading cause of occlusal disease and a significant cause of tooth loss. Teeth weakened by previous decay (caries) can actually collapse because the pressure exerted upon them by bruxism is extraordinarily high.
“Nighttime tooth grinding can produce excessive forces of up to 250 lbs. per square inch; enough pressure to crack a walnut!”
While the etiology of bruxism remains unknown, it is believed to include anxiety, digestive problems, disturbed sleep patterns and/or asymmetrical occlusion. If you routinely experience a sore, painful jaw joint; headache, earache, chronic facial pain or notice teeth that appear worn down, chipped or flattened; a thorough dental examination incorporating a bruxism evaluation may be a good idea.
We can evaluate the extent of wear and tear on your teeth, gums and jaw and suggest a practical remedy to offset further damage.
A variety of treatment options are available including custom-fitted night guards. If tooth wear has become extreme, corrective procedures such as dental inlays or crowns may be indicated to repair the affected teeth. If bruxism is linked to an occlusal (bite) problem, orthodontic treatment can help by correcting the malocclusion.
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