Teeth Clenching and Grinding
Under normal circumstances, your teeth should contact for only about 5 minutes each day. Normal chewing results in brief intervals of contact between the enamel surfaces of teeth. The outer layer of your teeth is composed of enamel which is the hardest, most durable material in the human body. It should wear at nearly undetectable rates.
Many patients (even younger patients) develop a flattened, worn appearance on their teeth from teeth grinding their teeth. Photographs and xrays of these teeth may show unusually thin layers of enamel. A few minutes of daily chewing is not enough to significantly erode the enamel.
You May Not Be Aware
Some patients develop a subconscious habit of grinding their teeth during the day or at night. In many cases this abrasive action occurs only during sleep and often for only a few seconds at a time. If you wake up with a sore jaw or a headache, you could be grinding or clenching your teeth at night. During the day you might not even notice that you are clenching or grinding your teeth.
In some patients, enlarged jaw muscles develop on the sides of the face as a result of clenching and grinding. These muscles, known as masseter muscles can generate a great deal of force on the teeth, gums, and jaw bone which can lead to irreversible damage. One way to reduce the strength and potential force of the masseter muscles is therapeutic treatment with Botox. Please see our website section about Botox treatment for more information.
Avoid Irreversible Damage
If you are waking up with headaches or a sore jaw or if you have noticed chipped teeth or a flattened appearance on your back teeth, a consultation with Dr. Ostler should be on your list. A carefully calibrated nightguard will help reduce symptoms while protecting your teeth, gums and bone.
Daytime habits of clenching and/or grinding your teeth deserve attention too. Dr. Ostler will analyze the current relationship between your teeth and help you develop strategies to reduce daytime clenching and grinding.