Effects of Long-Term Teeth Grinding - Smile Dental Center
woman experiencing jaw pain

It’s estimated that up to 33 percent of adults grind their teeth. This might entail clenching your jaw during the day or as you sleep, so waking up leads to teeth sensitivity or soreness spreading down your neck.

Yet teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is not a harmless habit. The tension and erosion can contribute to long-term dental concerns and may even alter the effectiveness of fillings and crowns. Here’s what you should know.

What Is Bruxism?

Bruxism is a condition encompassing habits like teeth grinding, clenching and gnashing. Sleep bruxism is also classified as a sleep movement disorder because it overlaps with conditions like snoring and sleep apnea.

Researchers have yet to determine a direct cause of bruxism. Currently, the condition is assumed to arise through a combination of psychological and physical factors, like anxiety, stress, tension, frustration and intense concentration.

Sleep-related habits may go back to hyperactivity that disturbs sleep quality or may be an effect of sleep apnea, acid reflux or medication use. Factors increasing bruxism risks include:

  • Excessive or chronic stress, anger and frustration
  • Having an aggressive or hyperactive personality
  • Age, with children typically more affected than adults
  • A reaction to a psychiatric medication
  • Excessive caffeine drinking, smoking, alcohol consumption or recreational drug use
  • Genetics
  • A condition affecting your cognitive health, like dementia, epilepsy or Parkinson’s disease
  • Night terrors
  • Sleep apnea
  • ADHD
  • Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Symptoms of Bruxism

Teeth grinding is the primary symptom of bruxism. Even if you don’t realize you’re engaging in this habit, the following signs point to tension and erosion from clenching and grinding:

  • Teeth with visibly flattened, chipped or angular tops
  • Visibly worn enamel, often accompanied by tooth pain
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • A sore or tired jaw
  • A jaw that feels locked or like you can’t open wide enough
  • A chronic earache that spreads down your jaw and neck
  • A chronic headache around the temples
  • Sores or damaged tissue on the inside of your mouth from chewing
  • Periodically waking up in the middle of the night
  • Complaints from your partner about the noise you make while sleeping

Long-Term Effects

Bruxism can contribute to chronic headaches, jaw pain, jaw clicking or may be a direct cause of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. You also have higher risks for a chipped or fractured tooth.

The more prominent risks include:

  • Damaged, worn or short teeth
  • Damaged or failing crowns, fillings and other dental restorations
  • Chronic headaches and tension around your face and neck
  • Being unable to open your mouth all the way
  • Pain when chewing
  • More cavities
  • Increased sensitivity to hot and cold foods
  • Inflamed or irritated gum tissue
  • Loose teeth or exposed roots

Treatments for Long-Term Teeth Grinding

When you’re displaying signs of long-term wear, your dentist may direct you to one or more of the following treatments:

  • A nightguard to limit erosion and damage
  • Using a muscle relaxer
  • Switching to a medication without teeth grinding as a side effect
  • Botox injections to relax the jaw muscles
  • Using a splint to treat TMJ
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy to address stress and anxiety
  • Addressing an underlying condition like sleep apnea or GERD

To discuss solutions for chronic, long-term teeth grinding, schedule an appointment today.