Tooth grinding, bruxism, clenching, gnashing of teeth – problems that we seem to see more and more at the office these days. Sometimes these symptoms are recognized by the patient. They notice things like chipped/worn teeth or even soreness in the jaws and headaches. Sometimes family members or a spouse will point out when someone is grinding their teeth. Other times the dentist is the one to point out the signs and symptoms. Is this a problem that needs to be fixed? If so, how is it best fixed?
Excessive clenching and grinding can eventually wear teeth to a point they cannot be restored, or the fix becomes very expensive. Teeth can even become so loose from the abuse that they need to be extracted or they come out on their own. Jaw soreness and headaches can also become so severe that normal daily life and functions are interrupted at minimum, and become unbearable at worst.
One of the main reasons for grinding and tooth wear is misaligned/crooked teeth. Tooth straightening through Orthodontics at the first signs of crooked teeth is the best approach. If the chipping and wear have already started, braces may still be the best option. Teeth can also e straightened via fillings, veneers and crowns, but this is the most expensive and invasive of the options and in severe cases may be the only remaining option.
Missing teeth for whatever reason may lead to clenching and grinding. Replacing the tooth or teeth with implants, bridges or partial dentures as soon as possible is recommended.
In some cases, clenching and grinding can be reduced or eliminated by slight adjustments to the teeth. A night guard can also be made that will not only reduce the tooth wear but help restrain the muscles to not be so aggressive (they won’t clinch as much – lessening the joint pain). We have been using Botox injections to the chewing muscles (muscles of mastication) to great effect. Patients have reported going months without a headache or soreness of the TMJ.
Contact your dentist to find out the best treatment for you.