Can grinding wear my teeth down?
Yes grinding teeth can significantly wear the enamel and even crack healthy teeth. Tooth wear is not a normal ageing process. Our teeth are much tougher than the food we eat, so if they are worn down, it is almost a certainty that it is occurring from grinding.
Some people who grind also have sensitive teeth, not only to hot and cold but also to brushing.
What can I do to about my grinding?
This depends on the extent that the teeth are ground. In most cases this is diagnosed early enough a protective guard that is worn at night is the only treatment needed. It is a cheap and simple process. Other treatments have side effects so they are rarely used.
In cases where grinding has been left to go on for many years, there may need to be a lot of reconstructive dentistry to build every tooth in the mouth to its original biting height. Keeping the bite at the correct height will ensure you do not put a strain on other teeth in the mouth that are not designed to take the new force. Maintaining the correct position of the bite will also help to not over strain your jaw joint (TMJ) and adjoining muscles.
Rebuilding the bite is very expensive dental treatment, certainly over $20,000 to correct. Needless to say, it is better to prevent with a protective guard than allow the teeth to get to that stage.
What is TMJ dysfunction?
This is often referred to as TMJ or TMD.
TMJ is short for temporomandibular joint and is the hinge that holds the bottom jaw anchored to the base of the head. It can be felt by placing your fingers in front of the ear canal and opening and closing the jaw.
TMD (temporomandibular dysfunction) is a condition where the actual jaw joint and or the muscles used for chewing are painful and the whole complex is not functioning in its proper manner. This can be quite unpleasant as it is a joint that moves constantly. It moves when we talk when we eat and when we swallow.
Many patients have clicking sounds from the joint when they open or close the jaw which can be caused by a small disc as it “pops” in and out of its socket. In some people, the joint may get stuck and they can neither open nor close their mouth. We term these symptoms as internal derangements of the joint.
These symptoms may be treated with special guards that clip onto the teeth to help hold the jaw in a position so that the disc can be repositioned into its correct place. Most cases are treated quite simply by exercises and avoidance of causative factors, especially in cases where the cause of the problem are the muscles of chewing. Giving the joint a rest, the same as resting any other bodily injury, by avoiding chewy foods or chewing gum can also give relief.
Position of the head and neck and the musculature associated with it is also thought to play a part. Once again postural exercises and becoming self aware are the only treatment needed.
In some cases the cause of the problem within the joint itself. Cases such as arthritis can affect this as much as any other joint in the body. Generally this is a medical area and treatments are via medications. Surgery is a last resort and it is carried out only when no other treatment is possible.