Tooth Grinding (Bruxism)
This is an insidious, very common and self-destructing dental habit that is far more common than generally recognised. It involves the individual unconsciously grinding his/her teeth at night, usually over many years. The habit can well start in the teens. There is usually a genetic predisposition, although dental tooth interference and stress can act as triggers.
The patient is rarely conscious of the habit, unless a sleeping partner complains of the noise or a dentist points it out. An unfortunate consequence of this habit is that the biting edges of the teeth chip, wear down and, indeed shorten.
However, because this happens gradually over time, the patient may not notice this change! Of course, if they did they would likely seek professional attention.
Effects of Tooth Grinding
The tips of the canine teeth have been designed by nature to provide protection from destructive contact of all the other teeth, particularly the eight upper and lower front incisors; during the unconscious night-time tooth grinding activity. However, after a while these canine tips inevitably wear down flat and the canines lose their protective function allowing the incisors to contact (rub against each other when grinding sideways and the destruction progresses and may, indeed accelerate. The patient ends up with shorter, very flat worn front teeth, possibly with chipping of the biting edges. This is destructive as well as rather un-aesthetic (i.e. quite ageing).
Treatment for Tooth Grinding
Many dentists recommend a plastic removable night guard to be placed over either all the upper or lower teeth and worn all night. We are reticent to do so, as most patients find the appliance uncomfortable and so do not use it. As a treatment for tooth grinding we have a far better solution from every point of view, which is also the most logical one: that is to simply replace the worn down tips on the canine teeth and so re-establish their protective function. Depending on how far the wear on the front teeth (incisors) had gone, it may or may not be necessary/indicated to lengthen these with veneers. In the first instance the tips are replaced with quartz composite material (fee: £300 per tooth). This is a relatively soft plastic like tooth coloured material. If it wears down/fractures, then the tips may need to be replaced with laboratory made porcelain (fee: £1,300 per tooth).