How to prevent tooth grinding

Tooth grinding (also called ‘bruxing’) is a night time habit that leads to prematurely ‘flat’ teeth, reduced dental function and an aged look. It can easily be prevented.

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Many people may be aware that they grind their teeth, yet do nothing about it. Worse still, quite a few dentists tend to overlook this problem as well! The consequences of grinding are greatly accelerated tooth wear and significant permanent loss of tooth enamel, usually of the upper and lower front teeth.

This nocturnal self-destructive habit results in a prematurely ageing appearance of the smile. The teeth edges are flat and ‘in one even line’. The smile starts to look unnatural as less and less of the teeth are seen during speech or smiling.

Signs and symptoms of tooth grinding

  • You keeping a sleeping partner awake (because the grinding can make a lot of noise!).
  • You wake up in the morning with stiff, aching jaw muscles (as if they had been running a marathon while you were asleep).
  • Teeth can feel ‘sore’ or be oversensitive to temperature changes of hot or cold.
  • The edges of the front teeth can become chipped and cracked in addition to being worn down.

What causes this habit? It appears that stress is a major factor. You may also have come from a family of habitual ‘grinders’. If your bite is unbalanced, this may well be a contributing factor.

The tooth grinding process
At the age of around twelve we get four teeth, called ‘canines’ at the corners of our mouth. They are longer than the rest and pointy. They have two functions: to tear at food and also to protect the front teeth from contact and wear during grinding.

If you’re not a grinder (systemically pressing your teeth together and moving the jaw), the canines will tend to stay fairly pointy and continue to protect the front teeth. However if you are a grinder, then you’ll gradually wear down these protective tips and flatten the canines. The biting edges of your upper and lower front teeth will start rubbing against each other, becoming flatter and less sharp. You’ll start to look older.

Ways to protect against tooth grinding
One solution is to have a mouth-guard made that you wear at night. It creates distance between the upper and lower teeth. However it feels a bit like going to sleep with a denture in your mouth.

At CAP City Dental, we focus on replacing the protective tips of the canines with a colour matched material that restores their protective function. If unaesthetic excessive tooth wear has already occurred on the front incisor teeth then we may advise the patient to have veneers placed over them to restore their size, shape and position.

We always check for signs of excessive tooth wear whenever we carry out our dental examinations.