Bruxism, also known as teeth grinding, is a condition in which you grind or clench your teeth together. You may not even know that you are grinding your teeth because it is common for bruxism to occur during sleep. However, some people are aware of their teeth grinding because they do it throughout the day as a stress response.
If you do grind your teeth at night, it is considered a type of sleep movement disorder. Also, patients with bruxism are more likely to have other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing becomes obstructed because of the soft tissues of your throat. Another form of sleep apnea is when your brain doesn’t send the correct signals to the muscles needed to breathe, so you stop breathing for short periods of time.
Mild cases of bruxism shouldn’t be cause for concern since they may not even need treatment. However, grinding your teeth can have long-term effects on your body, but it initially impacts your teeth and jaw.
Teeth Grinding Wears Down Tooth Enamel
Inside your mouth, your teeth have a protective layer called enamel. This coating protects the inner, sensitive parts of your teeth, known as the pulp and the dentin. Enamel is the first line of defense to defend your teeth from cavity-causing bacteria and tooth decay. Because it is the hardest tissue in your entire body, it is able to support your teeth and prevent issues like sensitivity and weak teeth.
Once this enamel is damaged, replacing it is not an option. Destruction of the enamel is permanent. You may experience heightened sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures as well as an increased risk of developing cavities or advanced tooth decay.
When you grind your teeth, you are slowly damaging your enamel. Patients with bruxism often complain of sensitivity to their morning cup of coffee or their favorite cold dessert. Grinding your teeth removes the enamel and exposes the inner layers of your teeth. The pulp and the dentin contain nerves that can cause pain and discomfort as you eat and drink.
Bruxism Impacts Dental Structure
Depending on the severity of your teeth grinding, you can even begin to change the shape of your teeth. This is because over time, the crowns of your teeth wear down, flattening the form. Your teeth can grind and chew food because of their shape, but flattened teeth will not chew as efficiently.
Bruxism increases the pressure on your teeth, creating enough strain to fracture or break your teeth. Broken teeth are much more susceptible to tooth decay and infection, so you may need a restorative treatment to fix the damage.
Over time, grinding your teeth can affect your jaw and its ability to move. In addition, the strain on your jaw can overwork the muscles, causing pain and tenderness. As a result, patients with bruxism frequently experience headaches and muscle fatigue. It is common for patients who grind their teeth to develop a temporomandibular joint disorder or TMD.