Occasional teeth clenching may happen to anyone, and it may not need professional attention. However, some people may clench and grind their teeth often. When you clench your teeth regularly, it’s a condition known as bruxism, which can result in serious oral and general health problems. How do you know when you need to see a dentist about your teeth clenching?
Here are some signs and symptoms to watch out for that can tell you your teeth clenching is serious.
Signs Others May Notice
Sometimes you are so used to your teeth clenching that you may not think anything of it. However, other people might notice your teeth clenching and grinding and mention it. For example:
“You grind your teeth at night.” is a common observation. Like sleep apnea, sleep bruxism is something you might not notice, but people sleeping in the same room as you may notice the sound of it. The clenching and grinding can be quite loud and disruptive.
“Your teeth look shorter.” is something else people might notice. You may be so accustomed to your shrinking smile that it doesn’t seem noteworthy. But a person who hasn’t seen you in a while may definitely take note of your shrinking teeth.
Symptoms You May Notice
If you only clench your teeth occasionally, you probably won’t experience any major symptoms. But if you are regularly clenching your teeth, you’ll probably experience a number of noticeable symptoms.
Jaw pain is a common symptom related to frequent bruxism. You might feel pain in the bone or in the joint, but the most common pain is in the muscles, which are working too hard. Bruxism is sometimes an effect of TMJ, and sometimes a precursor to it. Also watch out for tension headaches and ear symptoms.
Teeth sensitivity can occur as a result of serious tooth wear. You’re thinning the enamel that surrounds and protects the tooth nerve. As a result, your teeth may become sensitive to heat, cold, and pressure.
Visible cracks in teeth can occur long before the tooth is actually breaking off. In many cases, these tiny lines, known as craze lines, aren’t inherently a threat to your tooth. They’re mostly a cosmetic problem because they can collect stains. But they’re a sign your teeth are under stress and may soon suffer more serious cracks.
Frequent chips. Teeth can chip for many accidental reasons that may not be related to your clenching and grinding. But if you’re noticing chips that happen a lot, especially those that happen while biting or chewing, then it may be your bruxism that’s to blame.
Signs Your Dentist May Reveal
Some of the complications related to your clenching and grinding will be visible to your dentist first. When these issues show up at your appointment, you need to talk to your dentist about bruxism.
Abfractions are damage that your teeth can suffer at the gum line as a result of clenching and grinding. Clenching and grinding stresses the whole tooth, which not only wears off the enamel, it causes the tooth to flex, which can make the enamel flake off where it’s thinnest, at the neck of the tooth near the gumline.
Receding gums result from the stresses placed on the teeth and gums. This not only damages teeth: it can damage the gums and bone, too. You might not notice receding gums, since your teeth are wearing down at the same time as your gums are receding. But your dentist will notice.
Do You Need Treatment for Your Bruxism?
If you’re chronically clenching your teeth, it’s time to get treatment. The longer you wait, the worse the damage. First, the goal will be to stop the progress of damage. But once we’ve managed to stop tooth damage, we can talk about restoring the health and beauty of your damaged teeth.