Teeth Grinding

Under normal circumstances, your teeth should only contact for about 5 minutes each day.  Normal chewing results in brief intervals of contact between enamel surfaces, the hardest substance in the human body.  Slight amounts of wear over years of function can be expected, and bite edges can chip a little. But these durable surfaces should wear at nearly undetectable rates.

Yet sometimes teeth develop a flattened, worn appearance, even in young patients.  And x-rays may demonstrate unusually thin layers of enamel, as if sandpaper has been drawn across the chewing surfaces of the teeth.  A few minutes of chewing daily simply shouldn’t erode the enamel so much. 

You Don’t Even Know

Some patients develop a subconscious habit of grinding their teeth, either during the day or night.  In many cases, the abrasive action occurs only during sleep, and for only a few seconds at a time. If you wake up with a sore jaw or a morning headache, chances run high you’re grinding your teeth during the night.   In some patients, jaw muscles will begin to develop visibly on the sides of the face from the extra activity.  These muscles can be the strongest in the body, ounce for ounce.  That means they can generate a lot of unnecessary damage.

The unusual activity not only wears down teeth and strains the overworked muscles. The compressive forces can also damage the intricate jaw joints on one or both sides.  Damage to the joints may lead to arthritic changes, chronic pain, and popping or clicking.  Once these changes settle in, reversing their condition may become impossible.

Avoiding Irreversible Damage

If you’re waking up with a sore jaw or headaches, or you’ve noticed chips or flattening of your teeth, a consult with Dr. Weaver should be on your list.  The sooner the problem receives attention, the less damage there will be.  Often a carefully calibrated night guard with a specific bite relationship built in will eliminate the symptoms while protecting your precious enamel. 

Day time habits of clenching or grinding can also be discussed, and strategies to eliminate the problem may be developed.  Dr. Weaver will also analyze the current relationship between your teeth to make sure they’re moving against each other in optimal fashion when you chew.  Regardless of the cause, eliminating the strain on the jaw and your teeth as quickly as possible can save you many problems as time goes on.