Are you aware of the consequences of grinding teeth? Enamel loss or tooth wear from grinding are two common results, but other issues can arise if you suffer from bruxism.

If you’re someone who clenches their teeth, you may be wondering:

  • What happens when you grind your teeth?
  • Can teeth grinding cause tooth sensitivity?
  • Can grinding teeth cause cavities?
  • Is there a way to stop enamel wearing off teeth from grinding?

Fortunately, there is a solution to grinding teeth that can prevent tooth wear from grinding, especially if you catch your clenching problem early. 

Are you interested in learning more about clenching teeth damage and how to protect your teeth from grinding at night?

In this article, we’re sharing about what happens if you clench your teeth too much. You’ll learn some of the risks associated with grinding and how to protect your teeth from grinding.

Keep reading to gain a better understanding of grinding and clenching teeth.

What Happens When You Grind Your Teeth?

Some people unconsciously grind their teeth during the day and/or at night. Other people may already know, “I bite down on my teeth when I sleep.”

But do you know what happens if you clench your teeth too much?

Below we’ll share some of the main issues that arise from grinding and answer some common questions. Then, we’ll jump into how to protect your teeth from grinding

1. Enamel Wearing Off Teeth

One significant issue that can arise from clenching and grinding teeth is enamel loss.

Enamel is the hard outer layer of your teeth. It gives your teeth their white color and protects the tissues located inside the tooth. Unfortunately, enamel doesn’t contain any living cells, so it can’t repair itself when damaged. It’s this inability of the enamel to repair itself that makes grinding your teeth so detrimental.

When you grind or clench your teeth, you’re putting extra pressure on your teeth, specifically your enamel. Over time, this extra pressure can lead to erosion of enamel on your teeth

Not only will you need unique dental treatments (i.e., crowns) to fix eroded or damaged enamel, enamel loss also leads to another important question and issue regarding tooth sensitivity.

Can teeth grinding cause tooth sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity due to grinding is very common.

Enamel wearing off teeth exposes the dentin (layer of tissue directly beneath the enamel). Dentin is made of small, hollow tubules that connect to the pulp chamber, which houses your tooth’s blood vessels and nerves.

Hot, cold, or acidic foods can travel through your dentin tubules and stimulate your tooth’s nerves, causing pain or increased sensitivity.

But worn down enamel leading to increased sensitivity isn’t the only issue that can arise from grinding teeth.

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2. Broken or Chipped Teeth

Tooth wear from grinding can also lead to broken or chipped teeth.

In addition to eroding the enamel, the extra pressure on teeth from grinding can cause teeth to chip or break. These chips or breaks often come with pain or increased sensitivity. 

Dentists can fix cracks in teeth using various methods, like dental bonding or placing crowns. For more severe breaks that expose the pulp (the inner part of your tooth that contains blood vessels and nerve endings), your dentist will most likely need to perform a root canal procedure. 

The reason dentists may need to do a root canal for a broken tooth leads us to a common question many people ask.

Can grinding teeth cause cavities?

Grinding can cause chipped teeth, and chipped or broken teeth can increase your risk of cavities and tooth decay.

But how do cracks or breaks in teeth lead to cavities?

Cracks, chips, and breaks create “safe spaces” for bacteria to get into and hide in. These spaces are more challenging to clean, so the bacteria can more effectively break down tooth tissue. As mentioned above, bacteria can get into the tooth pulp and necessitate a root canal.

If you think that your tooth is chipped or cracked from grinding, it’s best to contact your dentist immediately to set up a time to get it fixed.

3. TMJ Disorder

Clenching and grinding your teeth puts added stress on your jaw, specifically your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This joint holds your jaw in place and is vital for:

  • Opening and closing your mouth
  • Moving your jaw around
  • Chewing and speaking

When your TMJ becomes irritated, dentists will say that you have temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. TMJ disorder is most commonly linked to grinding and clenching teeth, and it comes with discomforts such as:

  • Facial pain
  • Headaches or earaches
  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw
  • Aching pain in and around your ear
  • Difficulty chewing or pain when chewing
  • Difficulty opening or closing your mouth

Some people have very mild TMJ disorder symptoms, while others have more severe pain. Regardless of your perceived pain level, it’s valuable to talk to a dentist about potential fixes and preventative measures.

Whether you already have tooth sensitivity due to grinding or simply want to prevent future clenching teeth damage, there’s an effective solution. 

How to Protect Your Teeth From Grinding

Grinding or clenching your teeth is a habit that can negatively affect your teeth and overall oral health. It’s often an unconscious habit that people do at night when they sleep or during the day when they’re stressed.

However, most people may not know what happens when you grind your teeth.

Prolonged or untreated clenching can lead to:

  • Enamel wearing off teeth
  • Teeth chipping, cracking, or breaking
  • TMJ disorder and discomfort

Erosion of enamel on teeth and cracked teeth can also lead to further issues, like increased tooth sensitivity or decay. And TMJ disorder usually comes with constant pain, discomfort, and inability to use your jaw correctly.

So, how do you prevent grinding teeth, enamel loss, chipped teeth, and TMJ disorder?

Using an occlusal guard (also called a nightguard, bite guard, or mouthguard) is the best way to protect your teeth and stop grinding. These devices are often worn at night and keep your top teeth from contacting your bottom teeth. 

There are some over-the-counter bite guard options, but dentists usually recommend getting a custom-made nightguard that fits your mouth and bite.

At Northside Dental Co., we have a team of highly-trained dental staff ready to provide you with expert dental care. If you realize that you’re clenching your teeth, we offer TMJ therapy and can make you a personalized nightguard. We also provide restorative procedures for anyone who has worn down enamel or cracked teeth from grinding.

Connect with us to receive the best dental care in the Richmond, VA area.

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