Grinding Teeth In Sleep:  Damaging Effects of Teeth Grinding

Grinding Teeth In Sleep: Damaging Effects of Teeth Grinding

Dani Schenone, holistic wellness expert Dani Schenone, holistic wellness expert
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Effects of Bruxism - Teeth Grinding in Sleep

Parafunctional habits or patterns associated with the stomatognathic (jaw, teeth mouth soft tissue) system may include lip or cheek biting, nail-biting, teeth grinding, and teeth clenching. Activities like such may seem rather “normal” or easily be pushed under the carpet for some, but these involuntary and reflexive habits that may pose some serious implications for your oral and general health.  Teeth grinding in sleep and teeth clenching during sleep is one masticatory ill-activity that has dangerous effects on the health of the oral cavity; it is called bruxism and can be classified into sleep and awake bruxism.  Bruxism is a rather common phenomenon, affecting almost 30 to 40 million Americans, informs Business Insider . That is over 10% of the U.S. population! But what is the big deal? It’s just noise, right? Teeth grinding and clenching is hardly beneficial for your teeth. It can cause substantial damage to your oral tissues and induce pain and discomfort in your head and neck region.

What is bruxism?

According to the glossary of prosthodontic terms (GPT)-8 bruxism is defined as the “an oral habit consisting of involuntary rhythmic or spasmodic non-functional gnashing, grinding, or clenching of teeth, in non-chewing movements of the mandible, that can lead to occlusal trauma.” Ever since its introduction in 1907 as “bruxomania”, many types of research have been made in the field to assess the morphological and physiological factors that cause it. 

It has been estimated that as many as 15% of children grind or clench their teeth. This can be correlated to their hyperactivity or other respiratory issues but bruxism is usually noticed to decline with age. Only 3% of seniors still deal with bruxism. Sleep bruxism - teeth grinding in sleep occurs mostly as a result of over-bearing stress during the day time that has gone unaddressed. Awake bruxism may be a reaction to concentration, anger, or frustration. Other factors such as excessive intake of caffeine, alcohol, sleep apnea, drug use, and an improper malocclusion can all contribute to teeth grinding and clenching.

teeth grinding in sleep

Negative effects of bruxism

Teeth grinding and clenching can be corrected easily if diagnosed early. If left untreated, it can have serious dental consequences that may require extensive dental intervention. Here are 7 common side-effects of bruxism.

Flattening of the teeth

The constant grinding and clenching of the teeth during sleep can result in unnatural teeth wear and tear. It can cause a “flattening” of the occlusal surfaces of the teeth in a phenomenon known as attrition. The upper and lower teeth should only come in contact during mastication or chewing food. In this state of action, teeth should glide freely together. However, continuous contact or friction of teeth can even lead to significant mechanical wear of the teeth in an abnormally short time period and may even contribute to an abnormal bite. 

Since the effects of bruxism such as teeth flattening can progress quite rapidly, it is important to catch on this condition quicker. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends you visit your dentist at least twice a year for a check-up. During the appointment, your dentist will be able to detect and identify unnatural wear and tear of your teeth in its early stages before exponential damage is done.

Micro-cracks and displaced tooth fillings

The average person experiences 0.3 millimeters of tooth enamel loss through natural tooth wear and tear every 10 years. Frequent bruxers, however, are noticed to lose as much as 2 millimeters of tooth enamel by their mid-twenties. This is alarming for a number of reasons. Such a rapid loss of enamel signifies that the tooth is left unprotected and weakened and is now prone to many detrimental consequences. An increased risk of tooth cracking and broken fillings occurs as a result of this tooth wear.  If identified at its earlier stages, tooth cracks and broken fillings can be prevented. Your dentist can restore your worn teeth before the tooth begins to chip.

Tooth sensitivity

A common side-effect of teeth wear due to teeth grinding during sleep is tooth sensitivity. The tooth enamel is a protective layer of the tooth made up of hydroxyapatite crystals. If teeth grinding and clenching are well in progress, the tooth enamel begins to wear down. Once the tooth enamel has seen adequate wear, it exposes the underlying dentin and pulp, eliciting tooth sensitivity. The dentin protects the innermost live tissue called the pulp that houses the nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue of the tooth, giving the tooth its “viability”. Exposed dentin causes the tooth to become extremely sensitive to heat and cold.

Using a fluoride-enriched desensitizing toothpaste may help remineralize your leftover enamel. But tooth wear to the extent of dentin exposure may only be treated by endodontic methods.

Tooth loss

The rocking effect caused by tooth grinding can cause the teeth to become loosened from the jaw bone. Further teeth clenching applies unnecessary pressure on the teeth and causes the tooth to come out of its socket. In addition to the weakening of the tooth itself, it can also cause a number of other problems such as causing the formation of pockets along the gum line and initiating gum disease.

Gum recession

Teeth grinding and clenching is a leading cause of gum disease. The abnormal movement of the teeth can cause direct damage to the soft tissues of the mouth - the gums and cheek lining. Frequent teeth grinding can also loosen teeth and cause the formation of periodontal pockets along the gum line. These pockets are sacs that coax the harmful bacteria and food debris from accommodating in these spaces. These bacteria turn starch into acid and further attack the soft and hard tissues of the mouth, causing the recession of the gums.

Visit your dentist for a biannual check-up where the dentist will evaluate the onset of gum disease with potential signs like reddening of the gums, bleeding gums, the formation of deep periodontal pockets, gum recession, and even jaw bone loss.

Headaches and disrupted sleep

Sleep bruxism or teeth grinding in sleep can often lead to unbearable headaches that appear at a similar pattern to migraines. In addition to the headaches, excessive teeth grinding and clenching can also produce enough pressure in the jawbones and surrounding tissue to cause earaches, neck pain, and general facial pain.

If you tend to grind or clench your teeth while asleep, you may often be disturbed. You may not remember being disturbed but you may wake up the next day feeling groggy and exhausted.

Temporomandibular joint disorder

Bruxism puts immense pressure on the jaw bone. Your temporomandibular joint is the hinge that helps move your jaw up and down and side to side, facilitating in eating, speaking, and swallowing. Grinding your teeth causes undue stress and tension on this joint, damaging it. This is referred to as temporomandibular joint disorder or TMD. Symptoms of TMD include earaches, facial pain, dislocation of the jaw, and popping sound during jaw movement.

The Academy of General Dentistry estimates that approximately about 65 to 85% of Americans will experience some type of TMD symptom at one point in their lives.

Bruxism or teeth grinding during sleep is a highly dangerous dental condition. As soon as you notice the first signs of bruxism, visit your dentist.  Wearing a custom  teeth grinding dental guard can protect your teeth from the harmful effects of teeth grinding. 



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