The negative effects of teeth grinding The negative effects of teeth grinding

Even though it is involuntary and happens while you sleep, bruxism can damage and cause severe wear on  oral structures.

Medical Advisor:  Alfredo Luis Vargas. Odontólogo, practitioner at Coomeva  Private Healthcare.

All night long when they sleep, some people clinch their teeth unconsciously. They often do not realize this, but the people sleeping next to them do. Why does this happen? Alfredo Luis Vargas, dentist and specialist in oral rehabilitation at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, explains that the reason behind teeth grinding or clenching is often related to the state of stress the person is under, whatever that stress may be.
“Anxiety is a feeling that is part of life and prioritizes what may affect us. It can be caused by external events, internal problems or from people we know that our conscience suspects may cause us harm. Bruxism, however, is a syndrome that consists of grinding or clinching your teeth either consciously or unconsciously and over time, can wear down the teeth, cause fractures or lead to a loss of dental work.”
Our specialist emphasizes that bruxism originates from some type of lack of symmetry in our bite or in the connection between our upper and lower teeth. It even occurs in children as young as three years old. If it occurs this early, you may want to see a pediatric dentist. This specialist will oversee the child’s maxillary growth through orthopedic devices and in some cases, will apply the use of orthodontic treatments. When bruxism is diagnosed, devices may be used to limit interocclusal contact and prevent patients from clinching their teeth. Mouth guards, for example, have different designs so that the patient can choose the one they feel most comfortable with.
In the mornings, an individual with this syndrome may wake up with a feeling of general discomfort or tension in the jaw, head or in the gums, all of which are symptoms of teeth grinding.

How do I know if I HAVE bruxism?

Sometimes bruxism goes undetected. One symptom is dental erosion. This may be visible in small flat areas on the surface of the teeth, which may be imperceptible to a person that is not a dental specialist.
Clearer evidence of bruxism can be found if there are fractures in the enamel that expose dentine, as there are intermediate stages of it. In more advanced stages, extensive dental erosion can be seen, “…clinical crowns can be lost and dental pulp can become exposed,” Vargas says. In each stage, whether early or advanced, the muscles may be compromised starting with spasms and progressing to involuntary contractions and cramps. Later on, Dr. Vargas explains, these can lead to problems in the temporomandibular joint, damaging the joint tissue and the bone.
With any of these symptoms, the recommendation is to see a specialist and lower your stress levels by doing exercise, meditating or practicing other methods of relaxation.

In the mornings, an individual with this syndrome may wake up with a feeling of general discomfort or tension in the jaw, head or in the gums, all of which are symptoms of teeth grinding.


Treatment options

Some treatments may not even involve dentistry; muscle relaxants may be used as well as physical therapy, massages or the application of heat on the masticatory muscles.

With mouth guards, the most commonly used ones are those with a flat surface that have a sort of “neuromuscular deprogramming” effect. This form of treatment should be used together with an occlusal adjustment in order to completely treat bruxism.

Other mouth guards: some are made using the concept of the mouth guard mentioned above, which simulates the movements made by the lower jawbone in normal conditions. “For these, anterior bite planes should be taken in order to achieve lateral excursions and protrusion (the forward movement of the lower maxilla), leaving the posterior as the only point of contact during normal occlusion,” Dr. Alfredo Vargas explains.