Clenching or grinding, also known as bruxism, can lead to destructive and irreversible damage to your teeth. Very often the excessive wear occurs during deep sleep, when you are unconscious. Less commonly, clenching can occur during the day when experiencing high levels of stress.
Many patients are unaware that grinding and clenching occur until damage to the teeth becomes severe. Symptoms often include: headache, jaw joint or ear pain, aching or sensitive teeth, cracked or chipped tooth enamel and mobile (loose) teeth.
Managing tooth grinding or clenching often involves minimising the damage to the teeth with a protective customised splint (night guard). These splints are specially constructed to reduce the stresses on your teeth and muscles and to reduce the triggers that stimulate the action of grinding. If damage to your teeth has already occurred, reconstructive treatment may be needed to restore your teeth to their original appearance and function.
Because grinding often occurs during sleep, most people are unaware that they grind their teeth. However, a dull, constant headache or sore jaw when you wake up is a tell-tale symptom of bruxism. Many times people learn that they grind their teeth by their loved one who hears the grinding at night.
Signs and symptoms of bruxism may include:
Teeth grinding or clenching, which may be loud enough to awaken your sleep partner
Teeth that are flattened, fractured, chipped or loose
Worn tooth enamel, exposing the deeper dentine and pulpal layers of your tooth
Chipping and thinning of front teeth
Increased tooth sensitivity
Jaw or face pain or soreness
Tired or tight jaw muscles
Pain that feels like an earache, though it’s actually not a problem with your ear
Dull headache originating in the temples
Damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek
Indentations on your tongue
The biggest sign of bruxism is toothwear which results in shortening and chipping of the front teeth along with exposure of the softer dentine layer.
In some cases, chronic teeth grinding can result in a fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth. The chronic grinding may wear teeth down to stumps and cause the loss of existing fillings which have been placed.
Not only can severe grinding damage teeth and result in tooth loss, it can also affect your jaws, cause or worsen jaw joint issues, and even change the appearance of your face by shortening your teeth and deepening your bite.