The picture above is of a friend of mine that ground his teeth down for decades until there was almost nothing left of them. Some studies show that up to one out of every five people clenches or grinds their teeth at night. Most people have no idea that they're grinders, because it's an unconscious reflex that happens at night when we can't control or observe it. This is why it comes as a surprise to so many people when they hear that they're grinding their teeth, usually either from their bed partner or their dentist.
So how can you know if you're a grinder? A bed partner may tell you they can hear it at night, but if they happen to be a deep sleeper, they may not even notice. It turns out that eight out of ten night time grinders have a reflex during the day of clenching or squeezing their teeth together when they're under stress. This can be a warning sign. Another way is to look at the shape of your teeth. If the surfaces that touch other teeth are very flat, and the shapes of the upper and lower teeth surfaces fit together exactly in flattened planes, this is a very good tipoff. It doesn't have to be as severe as in the picture above, but those sorts of "leveled-off" teeth are a dead giveaway. Other warning signs include soreness or stiffness of the muscles of the face when waking, everything from the ear to the chin.
The best news about tooth grinding is that it's easy and inexpensve to prevent the damage from occurring. For my friend pictured above, not only were all teeth in contact ground down to about an eighth of an inch, two teeth loosened up and couldn't be saved. This was all a direct result of the night grinding trauma over decades. If he had known about the problem sooner, and he had gotten a night time bite guard to protect his teeth from wearing down, this could all have been prevented. In the end, he had a great result, but because he had waited for so long, he ended up needing treatment that cost about fifty times as much, and took more than ten times as long, including a surgical procedure!
Like most problems, this is one that should be addressed immediately so that it doesn't get exponentially worse. If you're concerned that you're grinding your teeth, contact us immediately so that we can take preventive steps to stop the wear before it gets too serious.
Patients often ask us "Why do I grind my teeth?" Multiple causes are known, but the most recent research shows that most grinding is a reflex to try to open up the airway when breathing has been compromised. In other words, if your grinding is caused by nighttime breathing problems like snoring or sleep apnea, we can solve both problems at once too by designing a bite guard that opens the jaw into a position that allows more air in, stopping you from snoring, and treating your sleep apnea, which is life threatening.
In other words, tooth grinding is a serious problem that will eventually lead to costly issues down the road. It's much better to protect your teeth before any serious damage is done.
Do you need help with clencing or grinding of your teeth? Call us today at (718) 268-1561, or request a consultation.