Do you wake up in the morning with pain in the joints of your jaw? Have you noticed that your teeth are worn and shorter than in the past? It is possible that you are among the population of serious teeth grinders.
General Information about Tooth Grinding
Grinding teeth is a common oral habit. Although most of the population grinds its teeth, only 8% are considered serious grinders and need intervention.
Teeth grinding is a phenomenon that deviates from the normal activity of the chewing system. It takes place in the day too, but mostly occurs at night. When one grinds his/her teeth at night it is defined as a sleep disorder.
Teeth grinding is characterized by repetitive movements back and forth of the lower jaw against the upper jaw, which can cause damage and breaks in the teeth and in existing reconstructions. Likewise, it can cause headaches and pain in the jaw upon wakening. When the teeth are ground in the daytime, it is usually characterized more by a tightening of the jaws. The pressure on the teeth measured at the time of such a tightening of the jaws is usually 5 times higher than in a regular resting condition.
Causes of Teeth Grinding
The precise causes of tooth grinding are not known. It seems that a bit of genetics and a lot of stress are connected to the phenomenon. In addition, research has shown a connection between the consumption of alcohol, coffee, and smoking and the increase of grinding. Anti-depressants can also cause the side effect of teeth grinding.
Tooth erosion can occur not only from teeth grinding, but also from excessive vomiting, for instance in those suffering from Bulimia or Reflux disorder. Following excessive vomiting, the acidity levels in the mouth rise, eating at the outer layer of the teeth, the enamel. Populations living in desert areas also may suffer from high levels of erosion of the teeth since in these places there is a high level of sand particles in the air. These particles are chewed along with the food and cause an erosion of the teeth.
Tooth Erosion in Children
Many patients ask about their children who make "horrible" grinding noises while sleeping. You can relax! The phenomenon is very common among children because of two anatomical reasons that change as they develop. The shape of the arrangement of the teeth in the mouth is different in children. The shape of the jaw joint is flatter. Usually, as the children grow, the grinding passes of its own accord.
Teeth Grinding in Adults
About 60% of grownups grind or tighten their teeth. In about 10% of the cases, the grinding is severe and causes damage. The phenomenon is very widespread, but few who suffer from it are even aware of it. Teeth grinding does not interfere with sleeping and only spouses sleeping close by can hear it.
In a dental examination the dentist can diagnose cases of grinding or tightening. The diagnosis includes examination of the jaw joints, the tissue of the mouth and the teeth, and grinding marks are examined. The dentist will present the patient with guiding questions regarding headaches and jaw, muscle, and joint pain upon awakening. The diagnosis of the phenomenon is important in order to prevent continuous damage.
Methods of Treatment
There are a number of ways to treat teeth grinding. The main method is using a night guard that is suited to the mouth of the patient. The night guard is placed on the teeth like a sport guard and it absorbs the forces that are impressed on the teeth, protecting them and preventing the damages of erosion. New research published by the University of San Francisco shows that the frequency of cracks and breakage of crowns by people who grind their teeth is 2 times higher when they do not use a night guard.
Teeth grinders and their spouses observe that in times of pressure and emotional stress the grinding worsens.
The phenomenon of teeth grinding is not stable. There are "quiet" periods when there is no damage, and difficult periods when most of the damage occurs.
Not everyone with eroded teeth needs a night guard. The diagnosis and decision must be made in consultation with the dentist. Sometimes there must be a period of supervision to prevent damaging developments.
If you think that you or your spouse grinds his/her teeth, make contact for a check up on the condition of your teeth.