If you wake up with a headache or a sore or tense neck and jaw, you may be grinding your teeth at night. Bruxism–also called teeth clenching, teeth grinding, and bruxing–is often brought on by stress and is a major cause of muscle soreness and fatigue in the face which persists after waking. But this unconscious habit is more than simply a painful annoyance. Over time, bruxism can cause damage to your teeth and jaw which can require major dental work to restore.
Cracks and chips
Teeth are more fragile than we sometimes realize. Clenching your teeth hard enough can cause them to break, and when you sleep, you have no control over how hard you clench. Snapping your teeth together too quickly can have a similar effect. Both constant pressure and sudden impact can result in fractures in one or more teeth.
Wear and tear
Each of your teeth possesses an outer layer of hard, bright enamel, and a darker inner layer of a substance called dentin. Bruxing wears away at your enamel and can expose your dentin, causing pain and sensitivity as well as a darker appearance to the teeth. Any significant amount of enamel loss will not heal and can only be treated with crowns or other dental procedures.
Long-term effects on your bite
If there is any space between your teeth, the constant pressure of grinding can make them shift, causing misalignments in your bite. Bruxing can also cause or exacerbate joint problems in your jaw. Over time, teeth clenching can severely damage your entire bite.
The best prevention
To protect your teeth from the harmful effects of tooth grinding, we recommend a night guard, a small piece of plastic worn over your teeth to shield them from the pressure of bruxism while you sleep. Night guards cushion your teeth from pressure and impact, reducing the likelihood of cracking. They also provide a buffer between your upper and lower teeth which prevents them from wearing each other down, and helps keep teeth properly aligned. Although basic night guards are available over the counter, the most effective night guards are custom-fitted by a dental professional to ensure you receive the maximum benefit. Dental Partners of Boston offers custom night guards to keep your teeth safe and whole. If you are worried about teeth grinding, call our office to schedule an appointment, or you can request an appointment online.