An excellent article about teeth grinding and clenching titled ‘Dealing with the Nightly Grind’ appeared in today’s New York Times. The article links an increase in teeth grinding to the increased stress felt by middle aged men in this recession. Normal chewing places 68 pounds of pressure per square inch on the molar teeth but grinding can place 900 pounds of pressure on the teeth! Traditionally it is predominantly women who seek treatment for bruxism, but those of us in the dental profession are struck by the recent increase of men seeking treatment. Normally 10-15 percent of the population grinds their teeth.
I will usually ask my East Setauket dental patients if they are sleeping well. I ask if they have headaches. I will ask if they bite their tongue or if the muscles around their mouth feel sore. Tooth grinding, also called bruxism, can break teeth or loosen them and might feel like a toothache. Tooth grinding can often be prevented with an occlusal (night) guard that we make in our dental office. But a patient may not know that he is grinding or clenching. A dentist who has training in occlusion or esthetics can see signs of tooth wear that the patient may not be aware of. I will take photos of the teeth to point out the wear patterns on a patient’s teeth.
Sometimes a patient is not concerned and doesn’t want to wear a night guard. This presents a problem. Look at the photo below of severely worn teeth. This patient refused to believe that he had a problem and wouldn’t wear a nightguard – but he is silently grinding his teeth down to the gumline. Don’t let this happen to you!