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Options for Fixing Damage From Teeth Grinding [+ How to Prevent It]
by Dylan Hao |
Maybe your teeth are a little extra sensitive, and you’re not sure why. Or you’ve started to notice fine lines on your enamel and other signs of damage.
Something is causing harm to your teeth.
What’s going on, and how can you get it to stop?
If your oral health issues are accompanied by symptoms like headaches, jaw pain, and tightness in your neck and shoulders, the most likely culprit is bruxism. With this condition, you’re unconsciously grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw.
The good news is that bruxism is controllable, and you can prevent further damage from teeth grinding. We’ll explain the details right here to help you.
Why You’re Grinding Your Teeth
If bruxism is the reason for your teeth damage, the next question is:
What’s the reason for your bruxism?
The majority of people suffer from stress-related bruxism, but it can also be caused by factors like:
- Lifestyle habits (excessive alcohol or drug use, too much caffeine)
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
- Misaligned teeth
- Mouth irritations
The reason behind your condition depends partly on whether your bruxism occurs when you’re awake or asleep.
Awake bruxism and emotions are usually linked together. If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or concentrating hard, you clench your jaw and grind your teeth.
This type of bruxism is less dangerous because you likely realize you’re doing it when it begins to hurt and consciously stop. Awake bruxism can be reduced with stress management techniques.
On the other hand, sleep bruxism happens when you’re not awake to realize what you’re doing.
Because you’re grinding your teeth and putting significant pressure on your jaw, it can do some major damage.
Sleep bruxers often put up to 250 pounds of bite force down on their teeth and jaws. To put that in perspective, the bite force of a large dog, like a German Shepard, is about the same — and they can tear up a steak without breaking a sweat.
It’s not surprising that sleep bruxism can cause so much harm to your teeth, jaw, and surrounding muscles.
This condition stems most often from stress and anxiety but can be the result of other factors, like:
- Sleep disorders like OSA (obstructive sleep apnea)
- Certain medicines, including a type of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Bad habits such as smoking, drinking excessive alcohol and caffeine, and illicit drug use
Regardless of the reason behind your bruxing behavior, you must understand how much harm it can cause and how to reduce the damage.
How Bruxism Causes Teeth (and Other) Damage
Clenching and grinding are natural behaviors we all do throughout the day, so they don’t sound like a big deal, right?
When they’re done regularly — and you don’t have control over how strong the action is — they are a big deal.
The action of clenching starts with the jaw muscles. These muscles hold the teeth together, and the grinding begins. This motion moves the jaw joint (called your temporomandibular joint, or TMJ) and grinds your upper and lower teeth together.
The results become invisible (but painful) muscle damage and visible tooth damage.
Symptoms of Bruxism
Jaw pain, tooth damage, muscle soreness, oh my!
The side effects of bruxism don’t stay confined to your mouth. The further they spread, the harder they are to ignore. It’s hard to believe, but some people clench and grind so strongly that it wakes their partners.
The first damage goes to the teeth as the enamel is worn down.
You may notice that your teeth appear flatter at the top and bottom than you’re used to or that you have chips or lines across the surface.
These lines are known in the dental industry as craze lines, superficial hairline cracks that are visible but not felt. They’re not dangerous, and they often happen as we get older.
But if you’re like most of us, you don’t want them to be there, and you definitely don’t want them to worsen.
As your teeth wear down, you may also notice they’re more sensitive.
The enamel is eroding, exposing the dentin layer and roots underneath it.
If these problems aren’t fixed, you’ll likely end up with more severe damage, such as:
- Loose teeth
- Chips or breaks
Side Effects on Other Areas
Spreading from your teeth and jaw joint come the other symptoms.
You may notice that you wake up in the morning with:
- Headache and a sore jaw
- Shoulder and neck tightness
- Earaches irritating you throughout the day
These symptoms are common with bruxism because the gnashing uses those muscles.
If your TMJ is out of alignment (which is likely to happen), it could go back into place over time with rest and TLC. Or, you may develop a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), which requires special care to treat.
However, if you’ve paid attention to the signs and caught your bruxing early enough, you may be able to care for the problem with at-home treatment.
Treatments for Teeth Grinding Damage
Damage from teeth grinding doesn’t always have to be permanent. The earlier you catch it, the easier it should be to handle.
Depending on what you're dealing with, some possible dental care treatment options can cut down or reverse the problem.
Here are some simple remedies and long-term solutions for teeth grinding symptoms.
Headaches are often the first sign that you’re grinding and clenching.
Earaches and sinus discomfort may accompany these morning headaches because the TMJ muscles are interconnected. They become inflamed, and the headache and soreness you feel are the results.
But you don’t want to walk into your day with a headache.
These tips can help you get rid of the pain and get your day back on track:
- Make sure you’re not clenching your jaw (if you are, try to relax).
- Take a hot shower (but not too hot) to reduce inflammation.
- Use cold packs across the forehead and temples.
- Use warm packs across the back of your neck.
If these at-home remedies don’t help, try OTC medication or natural supplements to relieve your pain.
Preventing and correcting craze lines starts with your habits. If you find yourself biting your nails, eating ice, chewing tobacco, or engaging in other activities that stress your teeth, try to stop those.
In the meantime, try to keep your teeth from connecting and grinding because that increases the craze line potential. Wearing a JS Dental Lab night guard while you sleep helps.
Cracked and Worn Enamel
Maybe it’s too late, and the damage to your enamel is visible. This is more than physical; when you’re unhappy with your smile, it affects your self-confidence and feelings of self-worth.
However, a few trips to the dentist can solve dental problems and boost your confidence.
Cosmetic dentistry offers veneers as a solution to visible flaws in a tooth.
Veneers are wafer-thin shells that bond to the front of your tooth. They match the shade of your surrounding teeth and are strong enough to withstand normal wear and tear.
A veneer could be your answer if you have one or two chips or cracks in your enamel.
Hold off on investing in this until you’ve figured out how to reduce the grinding issue because veneers — like your natural teeth — can chip.
Sometimes, the damage to your dental health is so severe that you need a crown to fix it. It might be from tooth decay, or possibly from chronic bruxing.
The term “crown” makes more sense when you learn that the visible part of your teeth is technically called the crown. So, an artificial crown is made to go over your natural tooth, acting like a cap.
Crowns protect and cover the teeth and restore their shape when the damage is too far gone to be fixed with a filling.
Ignoring the problem can lead to substantial tooth pain, whereas a couple of visits to the dentist solves the issue.
Dental crowns are made out of one of the following:
Again (as with veneers), you’ll want to slow down the clenching and grinding before you invest in a crown.
When your TMJ is out of alignment, you could have one of a variety of temporomandibular disorders.
Symptoms of this problem include “popping” and “clicking” noises when you open and close your mouth, and pain or discomfort with jaw motion.
Your doctor or dentist will likely send you for X-rays, a CT scan, or an MRI to see if there’s a problem with the bone, joints, or soft tissue.
How You Can Prevent Damage From Teeth Grinding
So, how can you use all this new knowledge to save your teeth from bruxism damage?
Here’s the key: you don’t have to do everything at once. One baby step at a time, and you’ll feel better.
You can start by trying to nip the problem in the bud at the source.
If your bruxism is stress related, try one small change a day to see if it helps you feel better. You know you need to make big adjustments, set boundaries, and remove toxic people.
But if those massive steps aren’t possible right now, you can still make small ones.
Here are a few simple ways to baby-step your way to less stress:
- Take a 15-minute walk in the fresh air without any electronic devices.
- Journal for ten minutes each day. Not sure what to say? Try the brain-dump technique.
- Meditate each morning before you start your day.
- Try to eat healthy in small steps. For instance, if you’re a soda-holic, start by cutting out one soda daily, and work your way down.
You’ll be amazed at how what you fuel your body with affects your mental health.
With enough small steps, you’ll start making major strides toward your overall well-being.
Get Help for Sleep Disorders
Obstructive sleep apnea is another cause of bruxism, but this one can be life-threatening. With OSA, your airway gets blocked while asleep, causing you to stop and restart breathing.
OSA requires treatment from a medical doctor.
Without help, uncontrolled sleep apnea leads to serious healthcare issues like cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and other deadly medical conditions.
Change Your Lifestyle
A few lifestyle changes may be all it takes to solve your bruxing concerns. We say “quit bad habits,” but we’re not discounting how hard it is to do that.
It’s easy to form these habits, yet it can be very difficult to break them. This is particularly true if your habits are chemically addicting, like alcohol, tobacco, and drug use.
While you work on these changes, you can also bring in some positive lifestyle adjustments.
Set up a calming bedtime routine, and you’ll be more likely to sleep soundly — meaning less grinding. Consider sleep aids, such as melatonin, while your body is getting used to a full night’s sleep.
Use a Custom Night Guard
Use a night guard to do damage control and help you sleep more restfully by reducing the discomfort from your grinding.
Luckily, a custom night guard — like those we offer at JS Dental Lab — is an easy fix to reduce the damage.
Our guards are made from high-quality material that you won’t bite through and can comfortably wear overnight. With this guard, your upper and lower teeth don’t connect, and your tooth enamel is safer!
Read more: How To Clean Your Mouth Guard
Bruxism might sound like a minor issue, and it can be. But when it comes to side effects like headaches and TMJ pain, it’s more than a nuisance.
And, more importantly, something is causing you to clench and grind. When you get to the bottom of why you’re bruxing, it’s easier to stop the behaviors.
With these tips and a custom night guard from JS Dental Lab, you can keep your dazzling smile healthy and stop the grinding and clenching damage.
Read more on JS Dental Lab: How It Works