If your teeth have a worn appearance, it’s possible you have a habit you’re not even aware of: clenching or grinding your teeth. Also called “bruxism,” this destructive action causes your top and bottom teeth to come together or scrape past each other with a force that’s many times what is normal for biting and chewing.
So what’s normal? This can be expressed in terms of pounds. An adult usually exerts a force of 13-23 pounds to bite or chew food. But we have the potential to generate as much as 230 pounds of force, or 10 times what’s normal. A “parafunctional” force of this magnitude applied repeatedly is bound to stress your teeth and other areas of your oral system. Besides wearing away the enamel of your teeth — and maybe even some of the softer dentin layer underneath — you may experience muscle spasms or pain in your jaw joints. Serious cases of wear can lead to “bite collapse” in which your face actually changes shape as your cheeks and lips lose support. This can make you look prematurely aged.
What can be done? To prevent further wear, we can fabricate for you a thin, plastic mouthguard that will protect your teeth at night or during times of intense stress. We can also recommend ways to temporarily relieve the discomfort that your grinding/clenching habits can cause. Heat and/or anti-inflammatory medication, for example, can be helpful.
If your tooth wear is minor (raggedness along the biting edge of a tooth or teeth) you may not need any restorative work. However, if tooth wear has already caused changes to your teeth and bite that you find aesthetically or functionally unacceptable, we can restore lost tooth structure in a variety of ways. Veneers and crowns are two examples.
If you have any questions about tooth wear or grinding habits, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How And Why Teeth Wear.”