Teeth grinding typically happens when people are unaware of it, either while awake or asleep. For some people, teeth grinding, or bruxism, can go on for years without much awareness of it.
However, if you’ve noticed you have a headache when waking up, an aching jaw, or sensitive teeth, it’s possible that you grind your teeth and are causing damage to your smile without realizing it. What are the consequences of bruxism? They might be more serious than you think!
Due to the immense pressure placed on teeth during teeth grinding, teeth can chip or break. Some people may notice what are called craze lines, or superficial cracks in the teeth that may affect the appearance of your tooth enamel. Others may have a deep crack or severely chipped teeth over time due to teeth grinding. Teeth can also break horizontally, and become worn- down, causing severe tooth sensitivity and the need for restorative dental work such as dental crowns or veneers .
Teeth aren’t the only ones affected by bruxism—your gum tissue is impacted as well. In fact, bruxism can cause gum inflammation similar to that seen in gum disease, and can cause gums to pull back from the teeth in a condition called gum recession . It’s suspected that the pressure placed on teeth as well as tooth roots in people with bruxism can cause this inflammation and recession seen in gum tissue.
Although occasional teeth grinding may not lead to jaw discomfort, chronic bruxism can cause inflammation and stress on your jaw joints, also called your temporomandibular joints. You may begin experiencing jaw stiffness and soreness, an inability to open your mouth all the way, or a clicking or popping noise when speaking or chewing. All of these are symptoms of TMJ disorders, which have been linked to bruxism .
If left untreated, chronic bruxism can cause such damage that it can lead to tooth loss. What happens is that gum tissue becomes inflamed, teeth become loose, and the consistent grinding of the teeth can cause teeth to become loose and eventually fall out. Bruxism can also cause damage to the alveolar bone, which is the bone that surrounds your teeth, which can accelerate tooth loss as well .
Are You a Teeth Grinder?
Bruxism can be managed and treated to prevent damage to your teeth and gums. If you suspect you grind your teeth, don’t hesitate to reach out to your dentist. Your dentist can also check for signs of teeth grinding during your regular exam. Treatment may be as simple as reducing your caffeine intake, or wearing a mouthguard to protect your teeth!