Involuntary teeth grinding or bruxism is a condition characterized by unintentional and excessive clenching of the jaw and sliding of the teeth back and forth over each other. The grinding often occurs while sleeping but other people grind and clench while fully awake. Since the grinding of teeth is an involuntary habit, it is quite difficult to break out of it.

The condition often seems minor but it can lead to short-term and long-term dental issues. Short-term effects, if not treated right away, may lead to long-term consequences. Dental protection will not only help manage involuntary teeth grinding, but will also help avoid teeth damage and loss.Here are some immediate and long-term effects of involuntary teeth grinding.

Short-term effects

1.      Popping of the joints of the jaw

Involuntary teeth grinding cause tautness of the facial muscles around the jaw area. The consequence of this is that the jaw joints produce popping or clicking sounds.

2.      Tooth Infections

In extreme cases, the tooth may crack or wear and expose the underlying dentine. This increases the risk of tooth infections. Tooth infection if unattended leads to tooth decay.

3.      Facial myalgia

The continuous involuntary grinding engages the jaw and facial muscles. The chewing process engages four muscles in the face area. Prolonged stress on these muscles will cause one to wake up with tenderness and experience some pain that restrict mastication. One may experience dull or achy pains underneath the eyes and around the ears.

4.      Hampered oral function

Facial myalgia characterized by aching jaws and facial muscles reduce oral functions. These painful symptoms and tightness associated with bruxism make it difficult to open the mouth, chew, swallow, speak, and maintain oral hygiene.

5.      Tooth Sensitivity

When the enamel wears off due to grinding or clenching, it exposes the dentine. Consequently, the tooth becomes sensitive. Dentine in the middle layer of the tooth has nerve endings. With little or no ability to protect the dentine, it is sensitive to hot and cold foods and drinks.

6.      Headache

Many headaches in those suffering from bruxism arise because of clenching the teeth throughout the night. The lower jaw connects with the skull at the temporomandibular joint. When chewing, the motion is often temporary and has no effects. However, entire sleep duration of continuous teeth grinding can cause mild and deep headache that can continue for hours.

7.      Enlarged jaw muscles

Prolonged clenching and grinding engages the muscles around the jaws. Due to increased use and prolonged strain, the masseter muscles located at the back angle of the lower jaw begin to increase. The masseter muscles may enlarge and may cause facial changes.

8.      Migraine

Although teeth grinding does not directly cause migraine, it can aggravate the pre-existing condition. Severe grinding may cause serious headaches among those with untreated migraine.

9.      Jaw pain

Grinding overworks the jaw. When a person grinds a lot, the overworked jaw muscles may start aching.

10.  Stiff neck and tight shoulder

The pillow is not always the culprit when a person wakes up with stiff neck. When the jaw clenches, the muscles around the neck tighten to support the spine and the head.Moderate tightening of these muscles is fine. However, regular grinding and clenching can cause the person to wake up with uncomfortable or aching neck.

11.  Breakage of crown and fillings

Excessive grinding can damage dental solution existing issues or new problems caused by the grinding. The motion of teeth against each other also removes filings and crowns put in place by the dentist. This exposes the tooth to more serious problem.

12.  Sleep disruptions

Although this is not a dental problem, it has an effect on the quality of life, relationship, and productivity. Most people especially those with nocturnal bruxism are unaware of their grinding or clenching. Two people can tell this. The first person is the dentist who sees the visible symptoms such as destruction on the enamel. The second person is the bed partner who can tell the condition due to the sounds from the grinding. Often the sleep partner will complain of teeth grinding. Sometimes the sounds may awaken you as well.

Long-term effects

13.  Temporomandibular joint disorder

Involuntary teeth grinding may play a role in the development of symptoms of TJD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder). The undue stress on the temporomandibular joint causes pain and tenderness around the joint and jaw. You may also experience pain and difficulty while chewing. TJD may cause aching around the ear and sometimes a swelling on the side of the face. The jaw may lock making it difficult to open the mouth. Clicking, granting, or popping sounds may emanate from the jaw joint when opening the mouth, chewing or closing the mouth with probably no pain.

14.  Wearing down of teeth

Teeth grinding can cause teeth destruction when the upper teeth move back and forth against the lower teeth. The canine teeth or the cuspids for example have nice pointed apex. Bruxism can cause the apexes of these teeth to flatten and disappear. If left unchecked the affected teeth may shorten. Other signs of excessive dental wear include distorted teeth, fractured tooth enamel and sometimes the teeth become loose. Tooth loss may also occur.

15.  Tooth fracture

The jaw can deliver bites strong enough to crack nuts. Some people grind their teeth so strongly. The force between upper and lower teeth during grinding can cause tooth fracture, chipping of the tooth and even break teeth. Fractured teeth appear brownish and many people assume this is a result of not brushing regularly.

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