Roughly 20-30 percent of my patients have issues with teeth grinding. It’s a common problem that can be quite serious, particularly if it is not addressed in a timely and effective manner. Unfortunately, many patients do not realize that they are grinding or clenching their teeth until the effects are obvious – worn enamel and loss of tooth structure.
Recently, blogger Garance Dore shared her struggle with teeth grinding on her blog. Her post brought to my attention the many questions that patients have about teeth grinding, so I wanted to take some time to address those here.
Why am I grinding my teeth?
There are a number of reasons patients might grind their teeth. The most obvious would be stress or anxiety, but this isn’t always the case. There are instances where an abnormal bite or crooked teeth will rub against each other because of their placement and cause grinding that is not related to the patients’ stress level. In addition, some patients have a disposition to get out excess energy by grinding their teeth at night.
I haven’t noticed a problem. When is this happening?
There are two types of teeth grinders – daytime and nighttime. If the grinding is happening during the night, the patient will likely not be aware of the problem. However, his or her spouse or partner may notice a chirping sound while they sleep. For patients who grind their teeth during the day, it often occurs during moments of intense concentration. This can be while driving or during a heated discussion.
How do you treat teeth grinding?
Treatment for teeth grinding is largely dependent on when the grinding is happening.
If you are grinding your teeth at night, a bite guard is the best treatment option. This will prevent your teeth from rubbing together and protect your enamel. This is an inexpensive option. However, you must wear it in order for it to work. In the long run, it may save you thousands of dollars in dental work to correct the issues that grinding your teeth has caused.
If you are grinding your teeth during the day, treatment can be more challenging. Obviously, you cannot wear a bite guard all day, so treatment is dependent on determining when the grinding or clenching is happening and then consciously preventing it. Your dentist should be able to match up your worn enamel together like a puzzle, which will give clues to the facial expression that is responsible for the grinding. Loved ones may also be able to help identify these expressions and determine when they are happening.
The other thing to watch for are habits that can contribute to premature wear such as biting fingernails, cuticles, pencils, and ice that can wear down your enamel.
If you’ve noticed that your teeth are showing signs of wear, it’s important that you talk to your dentist about treating the problem. If left untreated, teeth grinding can result in an extensive loss of enamel that will require bonding or veneers to correct the issue.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation.