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McLean Family Dentistry

Side Effects of Clenching/Grinding Your Teeth

Stress!! Just the thought of it can make a person anxious.  Stress comes from all different aspects of our lives.  The stress of kids, homework, marital issues, sports, work, family drama, bills…It’s everywhere.  We all know that stress can play a very important role in how we feel.  Ever have a packed weekend where you are constantly on the go? Then when it’s finally over, you feel like you could sleep for a week? Well, that’s your body telling you it’s time to relax. The funny thing is…even when you’re sleeping, you’re likely not relaxing and taking all that stress out on your teeth.

Ever wake up with a headache? Jaw soreness? Do you suffer from migraines? I was surprised to learn at a TMJ seminar a few years ago that our muscles do not relax when we are sleeping. On the contrary, our muscles become more hyperactive once we are at rest.  When we are awake and catch ourselves clenching or grinding it’s easy to stop ourselves from the bad habit. However, when we are sleeping, our bodies do not know to stop and it puts excessive force on our teeth.

Here are some of the side effects of clenching/grinding:

  1. Cracked teeth: By putting excessive pressure on your teeth, small cracks can become evident in your dentition.  These small cracks act a lot cracks in windshields. They can start off as small and over a small period of time become a lot bigger if the cause is not addressed.
  2. Flat teeth: Your teeth should have nice rounded edges to them. If they are sharp and flat, you may be grinding your teeth.  Nothing in your body is stronger than the enamel on your teeth. If you are flattening your teeth, you are doing some significant damage to your mouth.  Remember, enamel doesn’t grow back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
  3. Bone loss: Without getting too dental-nerdy on you, clenching and grinding causes gum loss and/or bone loss.  If you notice some areas of your teeth that are getting sensitive along the gumline, you may be suffering from gum or bone loss.

So what can you do to take control of this stressful grinding??!?! The first step is to go see your dentist. Have your dentist take a look at your teeth and see if they see evidence of grinding on your teeth. If they have an intraoral camera, ask if they can take a picture of the flattened areas on your teeth.  The second step is to ask your dentist about a custom fit night guard.  I can’t tell you enough how many of my patients say, “I’ll think about it”.  Months later they present with a cracked tooth or filling.  It costs way more money to have a tooth built up and crowned than to have a custom night guard made.  It’s a quick impression and the appointment shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

Hopefully this answers any clenching/grinding questions you have. If you have more, feel free to make an appointment to see me! Our dental practice in McLean is experienced in treating clenching, grinding, and TMJ treatment.