Most people clench their jaw and grind their teeth at some point during their life. It may be conscious; it may not. Doing it occasionally doesn’t generally cause any long-term dental damage. However, doing it on a regular basis can cause permanent dental problems that require assistance from your dental professional.
The Truth about Bruxism and Tooth Loss
Bruxism is a medical term. It describes the conscious or unconscious clenching and grinding of your jaw and teeth. It most often occurs during sleep. Therefore, you don’t know you’re doing it.
What causes bruxism is a mystery. However, some experts suggest that stress and anxiety are two of the culprits, while others suggest that an abnormal bite or missing and crooked teeth are behind the problem.
Regardless of the reason, grinding your teeth wears them down. Severe bruxism may lead to chips and fractures, leaving your teeth open to oral bacteria. That’s when cavities get started. Additionally, wearing away your teeth may cause them to become more sensitive to hot and cold or lead to aches and pains in your gums, jawbone, or facial muscles. Left untreated, bruxism could ultimately lead to tooth loss.
Stop Bruxism and Prevent Tooth Loss
Although you may not consciously know you’re grinding your teeth, there are telltale signs that may indicate bruxism. Look for:
- Worn tooth enamel
- Flattened teeth
- Fractured or chipped teeth
- Damaged dental fillings
- Loosened teeth
If bruxism is bad enough, the noise may even awaken someone sleeping in the same room as you.
One of the best ways to stop further damage is to talk to your dental professional about a mouth guard; not one of those that you purchase over the counter in a drug store – one that your dentist fits specifically to your mouth. You wear it while you sleep.
Here are a few other tips that WebMD suggests may help you reduce your chances of grinding your teeth:
- Reduce your daily intake of caffeine and alcohol
- Don’t chew on anything that isn’t food
- Avoid chewing gum
- Practice not clenching and grinding your teeth by placing the tip of your tongue between your teeth
- Relax your jaw muscles by holding a warm washcloth against your cheek
Others even suggest that if you think the issue may be stress related that getting counseling or relaxation techniques may help. Ultimately, your goal should be to end the bruxism to prevent damage to your teeth and prevent tooth loss.
Talk to your dental professional if you have any dental concerns, whether you think you have bruxism or other dental problems.