The Specialist

Teeth grinding causes serious oral health complications

Most people grind and clench their teeth from time to time. This process is called bruxism. The teeth can be damaged and several oral health complications can arise as a result of clenching and bruxism.

In this issue, we will discuss teeth grinding and how it can lead to several oral health complications.

Teeth grinding or bruxism is harmful to your oral health, and is usually caused by stress and anxiety. It often occurs during sleep (sometimes by a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea) and is more likely associated with a bad bite, missing or crooked teeth.

In some cases, chronic teeth grinding may wear teeth down to stumps and can result in fracturing, loosening or loss of teeth. In my practice, I often see patients whose front teeth appear very “short”. Many of them are unaware of the significance of their “short” teeth. Teeth are considered short when the height of a front tooth is shorter than the width of the tooth. Some of these teeth are severely worn or fractured and are wide as they are tall.

When such events occur, you are forced to introduce the added dental expenses of bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, partial dentures and, in worse cases, full dentures.

Another patient presents with the complaint of constant headaches. They report that they are awaken with a headache that remains during the day and sometimes feels like it is behind their eyes.

Lastly, there is a patient who presents with the complaint of teeth sensitivity that “came from nowhere”. They didn’t have sensitivity as a child or early adulthood but, as they age, their teeth have become more and more sensitive.

What do these four classes of patients have in common? They all suffer from bruxism.

When you brux, your jaw muscles go into overdrive, resulting in temporomandibular (TMJ) pain and complications.

The nerves that control the muscles of your jaw continue to fire impulses. Just like if you lift weights constantly for 24 hours, your muscles will become sore. The same applies to your jaw muscles. Sore jaw muscles receive the same impulses by the same nerves that cause headaches. This means, if your jaw muscles are sore, you may also get a headache. If you wake up with a headache, this could mean you were bruxing during the night.

 Bruxism can be managed by a dentist by constructing a mouth guard. A mouth guard is a dental appliance custom fitted for the top part of the teeth. The mouth guard protects the muscles that control your jaws and protects your teeth from being worn down. Patients usually wear a mouth guard during their sleeping hours.

If stress is causing you to grind your teeth, ask your physician or dentist about options to reduce your stress. Adding stress management techniques including a consistent exercise program is always beneficial. Seeing a physical therapist or sometimes receiving a prescription for muscle relaxants are among some of the options that are available.

Treating bruxism is a key element in preventing further health complications including chronic headaches, jaw pain, enamel destruction, fractured dental work, tooth sensitivity, early tooth loss and future dental expenses. In fact, treating bruxism can provide the quality of life one deserves.

• Dr. Kendal V.O. Major is the founder and CEO of the Center for Specialized Dentistry, which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in New Providence and Grand Bahama. He is the first Bahamian specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He is also a certified fast braces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, New Providence. He can be contacted at (242) 325-5165 or 

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