Why Is Teeth Grinding Harmful?

Some bad habits you may have are annoying, while others can cause health issues. One of the most common bad habits is regularly grinding your teeth.

Medically known as bruxism, teeth grinding on occasion is not likely to cause any damage. If you find yourself regularly grinding your teeth, harmful health conditions can arise. Talk to your dentist if you think you may be grinding your teeth too much. He or she can examine your teeth, jaw and mouth for signs of bruxism. Signs include symptoms like your teeth being excessively worn and your jaw feeling tender.

Not only can you damage your teeth and create other oral health problems from teeth grinding, you can also develop other health conditions, such as digestive problems. The following guide gives you information about the dangers associated with regularly grinding your teeth. Learn how you can stop your constant grinding to avoid health conditions.

What are the dangers of teeth grinding?

Why is grinding your teeth so harmful? Teeth grinding not only damages your teeth, it can affect your jaw and even alter the appearance of your face. It can lead to cracked teeth, tooth sensitivity, the shortening of teeth, the loss of teeth and even more serious oral conditions. The longer you grind your teeth, the harder it is to reverse the damage.

Tooth damage due to teeth grinding can take many forms. You could loosen or fracture your teeth or lose them altogether. Chronic grinding of the teeth can wear your teeth down so much your teeth become stumps. Any of these issues can result in the need for root canals, bridges, crowns, implants and dentures.

Chips and Cracks in your Enamel

Chips or cracks in your teeth’s enamel can have severe consequences. Enamel is the protective layer coating your teeth. Because your enamel has no living nerves or cells, it cannot repair itself once it has been damaged. By damaging your enamel, your teeth no longer have protection against bacteria, chemicals and acid. Underneath the enamel is a layer called the dentin. Beneath this, there is a soft tissue known as the pulp.

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The pulp contains the tooth’s blood and nerve vessels. Therefore, if your enamel is eroded and causes your tooth to be cracked, the pulp can become irritated and damaged when you move your jaw. Exposing the pulp and the dentin can increase the likeliness of bacteria forming in your mouth. Any type of tooth damage can result in oral infections, periodontal disease, gum disease and tooth loss.

Digestive Upset

Digestive problems can come from grinding your teeth as well. When you do not chew your food properly, partially-chewed food can create an accumulation of digestive acid. This acid can lead to health problems, such as indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux.

Serious Jaw Disorders

You can get numerous jaw problems from grinding your teeth. This happens because the grinding motion leads to excessive pressure being put upon your jaw. In severe cases, grinding your teeth can result in a condition called Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome. This condition causes major pain and discomfort in either one or both sides of your face. It can be temporary or it can be a problem for many years. It can include symptoms such as:

  • Swelling of the face.
  • A tired feeling in your face.
  • Pain or tenderness in your neck, shoulders, ear, jaw or face.
  • Jaws getting locked in open or closed-mouth positions.
  • Problems with opening your mouth wide.
  • Clicking, grating or popping sounds when you chew, which may be painful.
  • Trouble chewing food.
  • Dizziness.
  • Tinnitus.
  • Earache.

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Teeth grinding can lead to fatigued jaw, chronic jaw pain and a condition called masticatory muscle hypertrophy. This means the muscles in your jaw have significantly increased in size. Jaw misalignment is another condition caused by teeth grinding. This occurs in untreated cases of long-term teeth grinding. To correct jaw misalignment, you need surgery. In rare cases, the disk in your jaw joints can be damaged through excessive wear or from popping out of position. The result of this is your bone rubs upon bone, which can lead to arthritis.

What causes teeth grinding?

Teeth grinding can be caused by several factors. Stress or anxiety can cause you to grind your teeth, as can having crooked teeth or an abnormal bite. Sleep disorders like sleep apnea can make you grind your teeth, as can snoring. Teeth grinding usually happens at night, so many people are not even aware they do it.

Sometimes, teeth grinding can be a side effect of medication. In particular, it is linked to serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These are antidepressants that include medications like sertraline, paroxetine and fluoxetine. Lifestyle choices can mean you are more likely to grind your teeth. These include:

  • Smoking tobacco.
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Drinking over six cups of caffeinated drinks per day.
  • Using some recreational drugs, such as cocaine and ecstasy.

There are other causes for teeth grinding. You are more likely to grind your teeth if you:

  • Have sleep paralysis.
  • Mumble or talk in your sleep.
  • Experience hallucinations while semi-conscious.
  • Have violent behavior while you sleep, such as punching or kicking.

How can you stop grinding your teeth?

There are several methods to help you stop grinding your teeth. For many people, the answer is simple. Your dentist can give you a mouth guard to wear while you are asleep. If you grind your teeth because of a medication, speak with your doctor. He or she may be able to issue an alternative medicine without the teeth grinding side effect. Other methods you can try to keep from grinding your teeth include the following:

  • Relax your jaw muscles. You can do this by holding a warm towel against your cheek or earlobe.
  • Do not chew things that are not food. Even chewing gum can inadvertently contribute to teeth grinding.
  • Train yourself. If you grind your teeth when you are awake, train yourself to stop by placing the tip of your tongue in between your teeth. If you regularly do this, your jaw muscles learn to relax, reducing your natural instinct to grind your teeth.

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