I would estimate that 80 percent of my patients show some kind of effect from tooth grinding at some point in their life. Grinding of the teeth during sleep, also known as bruxism, is a huge problem. Stress is the main cause of bruxism, but it's actually considered to be a sleep disorder. There has been no real diagnosis for why tooth grinding happens, but I tend to believe it͛s because life is different these days. There are now a lot more pressures, which is manifesting in jaw clenching and tooth grinding. Unless you have reconstructive dental work, which can be costly, the damage is pretty much irreversible.
When does tooth grinding happen?
People don't know they're tooth grinding because they're usually doing it in their sleep. A lot of my patients say, I don't grind but it's obvious they do because the damage is on their teeth. One of the biggest signs is when the teeth are worn down and are uneven. People realise they might be tooth grinding because they start getting symptoms like having tired jaw muscles when they wake up. I am a pretty bad tooth grinder, but I don’t suffer from any of the symptoms. I just know I grind because I'm a dentist and I can feel the damage on my teeth with my tongue. I can actually feel my teeth being sharpened.
How to manage bruxism
To combat this, I wear a guard, otherwise, I can feel sharp spots on my teeth after a night of grinding them. Your teeth should feel rounded and smooth, not sharp. The sharpness can also tend to cut your tongue. The best solution for teeth grinding is prevention: preventing the destruction in the first place. Sometimes, however, it's too late, and we have to do major reconstruction work and full mouth rehabilitation with crowns. This is quite a costly procedure.
The grinding process
Initially, the impact of bruxism is fairly slow. The process means that the enamel thickness takes a while to wear down. Enamel is quite strong and resilient. Wearing it down takes a fairly long time - up to around 10 years. Once you pierce that enamel, though, you get into the layer of dentine, which is quite soft and almost soapy and dissolves really quickly. The acceleration process is critical.
Prevention is better than cure
Therefore, a grinding guard is crucial for the prevention of bruxism, especially if you have crowns. The best form of management for that is a grinding guard. It's like a mouth-guard but designed with harder plastic. It sits on either your top or bottom teeth during the night. The theory is you grind away at that rather than grinding away at your teeth. The perfect solution!