Also known as "bruxism", Grinding or clenching your teeth and the resulting excessive wear of the enamel can lead to a host of dental problems.
In many cases, teeth grinding occurs unintentionally during sleep. Teeth grinders, or bruxers, often also bite their fingernails, pencils and chew the inside of their cheeks.
About one in three people suffer from bruxism, which can easily be treated.
Teeth grinding over time can lead to hypersensitive teeth. Bruxers experience jaw pain, tense muscles and headaches, along with excessive wear on their teeth. Forceful biting when not eating may also cause the jaw to move out of proper balance.
Signs of bruxism Some of the signs of bruxism include:
- Tips of the teeth look flat. Teeth are worn down so much that the enamel is rubbed off, exposing the inside of the tooth (dentin).
- Pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) -the jaw- which may manifest itself as a popping and clicking sound.
- Tongue indentations. Anger, anxiety, pain and frustration can trigger teeth grinding.
If your dentist notices signs of bruxism, prescribed therapy may include behavior modification techniques to learn how to rest the tongue, teeth and lips properly.
Your dentist may also recommend a mouth appliance, such as a bitesplint or "occlusal guard" that is worn at night to absorb the forces of biting. This appliance can prevent future damage to the teeth.
Biofeedback is sometimes used to measure muscle activity and teach patients how to reduce muscle activity when the biting force becomes too great.