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How Teeth Grinding Affects Your Health

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is more than a quirk, it's a full-fledged medical condition with serious consequences. 

Here at Brite Dental Spa in New York, New York, our team of dental experts see the fall out from bruxism every day and help our patients stop the grinding before it causes serious health issues. Here’s what you need to know.

Bruxism basics

Whether you clench and grind your teeth when you’re awake or asleep, you may not even realize you’re doing it until you learn to spot the symptoms. The obvious signs include worn-down teeth, fractured or chipped teeth, and loud grinding sounds. But there are many symptoms you may not readily associate with bruxism, such as:

Stress and anxiety are common culprits that lead to bruxism, as are certain personality types. If you’re highly competitive, aggressive, or hyperactive, you’re more prone to bruxism, than those who are more laid back. 

Typically, bruxism-related problems are minor and resolve themselves when you stop grinding. But if you don’t address it, it can lead to some significant health problems.

Damaged teeth and crowns

It’s easy to see how severe teeth grinding can cause tooth damage. High pressure and friction over time break down some of the hardest substances in nature, so your teeth, though fairly durable, don’t stand a chance.

If you wear down or chip off the protective enamel on the surface of your teeth, or you break a crown or other dental restoration, you open the door to a flood of bacteria that get inside your teeth and set up a camp of decay. 

Unnoticed and untreated decay leads to gum disease, tooth loss, and bone loss. And if the bacteria find their way into your bloodstream, you can add potential heart problems to the list of bruxism-related risks.

Myofascial pain

When the tissues around your muscles become irritated and inflamed, tight and sore, it’s called myofascial pain, and it can occur anywhere in your body. 

Bruxism is known to cause myofascial pain in your head, face, jaw, and neck. You might feel stiff and achy or have sudden spasms and contractions. Depending on the severity of your pain, you may avoid eating certain foods or avoid eating at all, which can lead to eating disorders.

Chronic pain may also lead to depression, which itself can cause physical pain.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder

Your temporomandibular joints are the two joints that connect your skull to your jaw bone, and they rely on a network of muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage to open and close smoothly. 

Multiple things can throw your TMJ out of whack, and bruxism is one of them. Constant grinding and clenching can lead to misalignment, disc erosion, and cartilage damage. Many people who suffer from TMJ pain have trouble chewing, which can trigger an eating disorder and even malnutrition. 

If you have TMJ disorder, your cartilage becomes compromised and your joint is more susceptible to arthritis.

Sleep disorders

Bruxism not only causes sleep disorders, but it is also a sleep disorder. The incessant grinding can disrupt sleep or make it impossible for you and your partner.

Beyond that, there’s a strong link between bruxism and obstructive sleep apnea, a serious disorder that restricts your oxygen intake while you’re sleeping. Although the direct correlation hasn’t been established, studies show the two conditions often go hand in hand. 

Some theorize that grinding is your body’s way of reopening your airway, others think that the nerves and muscles that trigger sleep apnea also trigger grinding. But whether they’re connected or occur independently, the combo’s prevalence can’t be denied, and should therefore be considered as a possible complication.

Help for your bruxism

We can help you overcome your bruxism once we get to the bottom of what’s causing it. For instance, you may need to take stock of your life and find ways to manage stress and anger. 

To prevent further damage, we may fit you for a custom mouthguard or splint that you wear at night or during the day to protect your teeth and relax your jaw.

In some cases, misalignment of your teeth may contribute to your grinding problems, so Invisalign® clear aligners may help. 

Botox® injections are also known to relax the muscles in your jaw that stem from and lead to TMJ and bruxism, so relief might be just a shot away.

Whatever’s causing your bruxism, it’s important to address it now before it seriously affects your health. To find out more about bruxism and your options for treatment, contact us at our New York, New York, office by phone or online to schedule a consultation today.

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