Clenching and Grinding your Teeth
To understand why Clenching and Grinding (Bruxing) your teeth can be a problem you need to understand what is normal. Usually your teeth only touch when you swallow, which is a light contact and spaced out regularly throughout the day. This means your teeth only touch for about 10 minutes each day.
When you clench or grind, your teeth are in contact much longer. It could easily be 2 hours a day which is equal to an increase of 12 times. For example if you usually walked 1 mile each day it would be like walking 12 miles instead. This probably would be fine except that when a person clenches or grinds then they bite with forces 10-16 times normal chewing forces. Back to the walking analogy, this would be like walking 120 miles a day. The joint and muscles are just like other joints and muscles if you over stress them they let you know about it.
Headaches and Jaw Pain
Probably the most common symptom caused by Bruxing is headaches or jaw pain. Grinding our teeth commonly occurs at night and is a subconscious response to stress. Many people will wake up with a tired face, feeling like they have had poor sleep and can have a headache or sore jaw. These symptoms can sometimes be helped by taking painkillers but in doing so all you are doing is treating the symptoms. The other problem with just ignoring the cause is that the excessive forces damage your teeth.
Damage to your Teeth
This damage can be wear and chipping of your teeth with front teeth looking square and short, the photo below is a good example of this.
For back teeth this can lead to breaking and fracture both of teeth and restorations. I have on occasions had to remove back teeth that have been fractured in two by a patient who grinds. Another common symptom of clenching and grinding your teeth is sensitivity to hot and cold food and drink. The extreme forces bend your teeth causing micro cracks and loss of mineral at the necks of teeth and these exposed areas are sensitive.
Solutions for Teeth Clenching and Grinding
If your teeth have not been damaged and the problem is one of pain from the muscles or joints we have a range of mouth splints or guards to reduce the habit of clenching or grinding. Commonly just worn at night they will relieve the symptoms and reduce the need for painkillers and giving you better sleep.
If your teeth are sensitive we can now cure the pain. It is also important to then deal with the clenching or grinding otherwise over time the symptoms will return.
If the teeth are damaged various techniques such as crowns and veneers are needed to restore the teeth. The dentistry done to repair the damage is no different than tooth tissue and needs protecting as it is widely accepted by dentists that once a clencher or grinder then you will always tend to continue this habit. This again means wearing a mouth splint at night is an important element of rehabilitation. Its worth it just look at the result.
As it is believed stress has a role to play in these problems it is also important if possible to deal with this if possible and it may also relate to your posture as your head is balanced on top of your spine so in some cases it is important to include podiatry and osteopathy to get the best results.