Nargiz I. Zadeh, DMD
General, Cosmetic, and Implant Dentistry
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How Does Grinding Your Teeth Chip Away at Your Smile?

April 29, 2021
Posted By: Dr. Zadeh

Do you grind your teeth? The answer to this question may surprise some people because it is possible to clench and grind your teeth without knowing, especially if it only happens when you're asleep. Some people know that they grind their teeth because they wake up with a sore jaw or headache, but others may not know it. However, it's worth paying closer attention as it can cause significant changes to the function and esthetics of teeth. 

The medical term for teeth grinding is "bruxism" describing a condition that can be frustrating, involuntary, and difficult to treat in a number of cases. The right approach to your nearby dental office can help mitigate the effects of grinding and work to address the root causes. Let's explore more about what you need to know concerning bruxism. 

The Causes of Tooth Grinding 

What makes someone grind their teeth? There are many causes that can happen alone or in combination making bruxism even more difficult to treat. Some of the most common contributing factors identified include: 

  • High levels of emotional stress  
  • Use of certain types of recreational drugs or excessive consumption of caffeine or alcohol 
  • Medications, such as antidepressants 
  • Joint pain as in your TMJ or temporomandibular joint 
  • An unstable bite 

Although bruxism is common, that doesn't mean it's something to overlook because the causes can vary from being normal function to dysfunction, the latter needing treatment right away.  

Signs and Symptoms of Tooth Grinding 

Some people consciously grind their teeth during their waking hours, but not all do. If you aren't sure if you’re bruxing during sleep, you should consider whether you frequently experience any of the following symptoms: 

  • Morning headache or earaches 
  • Facial tightness or soreness in your neck 
  • Painful damage to the insides of your cheeks and tongue 
  • Sensitivity to temperatures and pressure, or soreness on several teeth in one area 
  • Unexplained tooth chipping, usually visible on the front teeth 

These are the most common symptoms and if you recognize them, you should consult with your dentist. 

The Consequences of Grinding Your Teeth 

Grinding ultimately wears down the enamel of your teeth and if left untreated can cause extensive problems, making it important to address early on. Some of the most common concerns related to bruxism include:  

  • Abfraction lesions—microfractures of the enamel at the gum line—exposing the soft second layer of the tooth which can be overly sensitive. 
  • Cheek biting because of chewing on the cheek while you grind. This continuous trauma can cause painful open sores to form and unfavorable changes to the skin.  
  • Tongue scalloping, or rippling visible on the sides of the tongue. While these are often not painful, they can cause the tongue to feel more sensitive to certain spices. 
  • Reduced tooth height, which can lead to the degradation of your smile and eventual face drooping if left unchecked. 
  • Chipped or cracked teeth. While tooth chipping is often easily fixed, a cracked tooth can vary in severity and in extreme cases need to be taken out. 

What Can You Do To Stop Your Grinding?

There are many possible treatment pathways for reducing the effects of bruxism. If you've already suffered damage to your teeth, your dentist will first focus on correcting these issues and relieving any pain you might have. Afterward, you will need to be fitted for a custom night guard. In more complex cases, a special protective splint may need to be worn before a long-term nightguard is made. It is extremely important to wear a professionally designed nightguard as opposed to one you can buy at the drug store because the latter can cause you to grind if worn long-term. Your dentist will explain the difference between the two during the consultation appointment. 

Exploring Your Options

With assistance and insight from an experienced and compassionate dental practitioner such as Dr Nargiz I. Zadeh, discovering treatment pathways and potential solutions for your grinding issues is within reach. By taking action to correct these issues early, you can avoid many of the most concerning outcomes of long-term grinding. Even if you've lived with bruxism for some time there are options available to you. Arrange to consult with our practice today


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I’ve been so nervous about visiting the dentist but my experience with Dr. Zedeh was exceptional. She explained everything in detail and was so professional as was her staff.