Recently, dentists around the United States have noticed a dramatic increase in teeth grinding. The New York Times released an article verifying what we as dentists already know. The article entitled, “When Stress takes a Toll on Your Teeth”, describes how stress revolving around the economy is playing a part in people’s teeth grinding habits.
Teeth grinding is also known as bruxism and is responsible for a number of problems including TMD, commonly referred to as TMJ, muscle soreness, headaches, ear aches, neck pain, as well as cracked, fractured and worn teeth. Numbers vary from dentist to dentist, but the overall percentage of cases being diagnosed in dental offices is 25-50% higher than in times past. That is an incredible amount of people creating all kinds of havoc on their teeth and the surrounding areas of the joints and muscles.
Although genetics can play a part in bruxism, stress has been known for years to set off clenching and grinding in people. Stress causes a fight-or-flight response which releases hormones that mobilize energy and causes isometric activity or muscle movement. The amount of pressure exerted by an individual during teeth grinding or clenching can go from a normal 20-30 lbs of pressure per square inch, to as high as 200 lbs of pressure per square inch. Many people will grind up to 40 minutes during every hour of sleep causing significant damage.
Most of our patients don’t even realize that they are grinding or clenching their teeth and deny that they have any pain in their muscles or joints. How can this be, you ask? It is kind of like a body builder who has been working out for years. As time goes on the muscles get stronger allowing for heavier weights. Workouts don’t cause as much pain because the muscles are used to it. Someone with large masseter muscles, the muscles responsible for much of the pressure placed on your teeth during chewing, grinding, and clenching, often doesn’t realize how much stress they can actually put on their teeth.
For a dentist, such as us here at Ballantyne Center for Dentistry, there are a few key give-aways to a grinder or clincher. Often teeth grinding causes obvious wear patterns that are easily recognized under close examination of a patients bite. People that clench their teeth will show signs of small “craze lines” or fractures in the outer layer of the teeth called the enamel. These craze lines may be difficult to see under normal light, but show up easily under trans illumination.
So what does all of this mean to you and how can you protect your natural teeth and any investment you have made in your dental restorations like fillings, crowns, bridges, veneers, etc? If you have not worn your teeth down beyond a certain point, many times the most appropriate treatment is a simple night guard or bruxing device. These vary in price from $350-$1000. They are custom fitted to your mouth and designed to spread the force of the bite over the entire range of teeth and not just a few back or front teeth. Beware of dental appliances sold over the counter in drug stores, supermarkets, online, and even on TV. These appliances may provide a form of protection for a limited time, but have been shown to increase the activity that leads to clenching and grinding. It is in your best interest to have an appliance custom made by a dentist and not something like a “boil and bite”.
Frequently patients who wear a night guard for a few weeks’ notice not only a decrease in muscle soreness if they have it, but that they are sleeping better. There is also the added benefit of knowing that you are not destroying your dental work or your teeth.
If your teeth have worn down significantly or the fractures in your teeth are great, then having porcelain crowns or porcelain veneers fitted will be not only beneficial to protecting the underlying structure of your teeth, but also improve and open the bite back to where it was originally. This is often referred to as full mouth, or partial mouth reconstruction. The cost of this can be high and for many people dentistry financing works the best. Consulting with a dentist who is an expert in this area is essential to a positive outcome.
There are a few other treatments that are being tried by some dentists around the country including Botox injections, acupuncture, hypnosis, and medical massage.
Call Dr. Christian Yaste and Dr. Joe Hufanda, at Ballantyne Dentistry, your Charlotte cosmetic dentists, for the best solution for you.