The grinding of teeth is considered a dental as well as a medical problem. It is often an unconscious action that not only has an effect on the teeth themselves, but also on surrounding support structures. Clinically this disorder is referred to as bruxism. Teeth are clenched and ground against each other during the day, when often you are conscious of it, or during sleep when this action is unconscious.
Most people, who develop this unhealthy habit, grind their teeth during sleep. It can be quite disturbing to a sleeping partner, and almost as distracting as snoring. The grinding can be mild or extreme and can be quite unnerving to hear. There are many reasons for people developing this unhealthy habit, and there is a belief that people under stress are more prone to bruxism. It is very commonly seen in almost a third of children, and more often in children below the age of five. Doctors have discovered that this is due to the lower and upper teeth not being correctly aligned. An earache, the eruption of teeth, strife in the home and other lifestyle changes often lead to bruxism.
Young children have teeth that are not yet permanent and, therefore, may outgrow grinding when the permanent teeth do replace the temporary ones. Adult teeth are stronger, and will form a definite alignment, thus leading to the reduction in bruxism. Adults who develop this habit can affect the permanent teeth, and this becomes a cause for worry. Teeth grinding wears down the biting surfaces of teeth, and can cause teeth to chip and crack. In extreme cases, the teeth grinding can result in pain in the jaw joint or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, which results in many other problems like vertigo and ear problems. About a tenth of people who suffer from teeth grinding will be affected by TMJ.
Teeth grinding can also cause teeth that have been hollowed by decay, to collapse. Some teeth can also get loosened, and teeth may become shorter and lead to loss of teeth structure. Bruxism can lead to sufferers chewing on the inside cheek tissue, and this can lead to ulceration and other problems, which can make eating difficult. Teeth enamel gets worn away, gums may recede, and lesions and headaches result from bruxism.
In most cases, people may not even be aware that they are in the habit of grinding their teeth unless a problem with teeth takes them to their dentist. Dentists are led to this conclusion when they find teeth damaged and fractured. Prior dental work like crowns can also be affected, and teeth may become very sensitive. Jaw or face pain points to this disorder, and X-rays may be necessary to confirm the findings.
You may get referred to a psychiatrist if the stress is determined as the cause of bruxism. Customized mouth guards may be suggested by dentists as a cure to prevent further damage to teeth and enamel. TMJ requires further action from specialists. The ill effects of teeth grinding must not be neglected, and care must be taken to protect oral health.