Grinding teeth: Stop taking it out on your teeth

Grinding teeth is an involuntary habit that involves excessive clenching, to the point where teeth begin to show signs of damage. Grinding teeth, or bruxism as it is known, is a quite common problem that you may not be aware of, simply because it may be happening when you are sleeping. Mostly, you never notice until someone else actually overhears you grinding your teeth. It can occur due to a couple of reasons, including:

  • Stressful lifestyles. Most people clench their fists when stressed out or angry. But some clench the jaw muscles, unknowingly grinding their teeth.
  • Weird habits like biting on the end of a pencil or excessive chewing of gum can cause damage. Some people mimic rhythm instruments by clicking teeth. Such habits would have originated during childhood or adolescence. It becomes second nature over a period of time and teeth grinding continues, even without the gum or pencil.
  • Nervousness can also cause grinding of the teeth in some cases.

So how do you recognize bruxism? The tooth, being chewed on excessively, will be worn out.

Attrition (wearing) of front teeth due to grinding

Teeth have a specific anatomy (structure). The back teeth (pre-molars and molars) have cusp formations (small triangular elevations) on the biting surfaces. The front teeth (incisors) usually have ridges that taper towards the tip with a smooth finish. In bruxism, these areas will appear flattened, exposing the inner layers of the teeth (dentin). You may also wake up with an ache in the jaw muscles that has been clenched all night.

Once identified, your dentist can fabricate a splint (hint: first picture above) for you to wear at night. This will stop you from grinding your teeth during your sleeping hours. But a more permanent solution would be to stop the habit completely by identifying the cause and consciously keeping yourself from grinding your teeth. If stress is the cause, try to find a way to relax. If you find yourself playing drums on your teeth, to the sound of your favourite song, try snapping your fingers. In cases where movement and joints of the jaw (temporomandibular joint) have started to get affected, your dentist may recommend a build up of your tooth to make up for lost structure.

Hope this post helps you recognize any habits you may have that injure the health of your teeth.

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