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Teeth Clenching

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Teeth clenching, otherwise known as bruxism, is a common phenomenon amongst people. For all intensive purposes, almost everybody clenches his or her teeth. The problem lies in whole intense the scale of teeth clenching is. A person with severe bruxism will often clench their teeth with much force, usually, while they sleep. The pressure that can be generated across the teeth can range from 100 to 600 psi (pounds per square inch), and this is an incredible amount of force.

The cause of bruxism is still unknown. There are theories linking the disorder to the central nervous system, while other experts believe that the problem is more multi-faceted implicating stress as a big influence. In any case, problems resulting from teeth clenching accumulates slowly over the years leading to more severe problems that may include possible surgery.

A summary of signs/symptoms caused by teeth clenching is outlined:

1. Wearing of teeth – When the teeth grinds harshly against one another with sufficient force on a daily basis, the teeth understandable will become worn down. It is especially noticeable when a person has front teeth that appear having the same length - as if they were filed down.

2. Breaking of teeth – The chances of breaking or chipping your teeth increases with the constant wearing down of your teeth. The edges of front teeth and the cusps or corners of back teeth will begin to show micro-fractures or cracks. These cracks are minute and cannot be detected by x-rays. Teeth with these types of fractures will eventually chip, break a corner, or require root canal therapy. The reason for root canal therapy is that the fracture begins on the surface of the tooth and eventually deepens until the crack enters the area of the nerve.

3. Sensitive teeth - Usually a generalized soreness and/or a cold sensitivity.

4. Receding gums - When teeth grind hard against each other over time, they flex at the gum line and the enamel (which ends thinly at the gum line) micro-fractures away. This results in an exposed area (abrasion area) at the gum line that is extremely sensitive.

5. Loose teeth – Grinding may cause teeth to loosen due to the "rocking" back and forth motions that they undergo. When the tooth gets loose, there may be a general horizontal loss of supporting bone around the teeth – periodontal pockets.

6. Bony ridges - Instead of losing bone support - some people actually develop "extra" bone to support the teeth. These appear as bony ridges that can be seen and felt on the jawbones as a smooth raised area about at the level of the roots.

7. Cheek irritation – The formation of a ridge or line of toughened tissue on the inside of the cheek where the teeth come together will often cause cheek irritation. It is normal for people to actually bite themselves along this line – which is most common in the most posterior molar area.

8. Sore jaw muscles – Occur especially in the cheek and temple area when these two muscles are overused, as with teeth grinding throughout the night.

9. TMJ problems - Is related to jaw joint pain and sore jaw muscles. In severe cases, the jaw joint may become overloaded and the resulting problem may lead to surgical intervention.

If you suspect that you have bruxism – i.e. you feel that you have some of the above signs/symptoms of the disorder, or you have been told that you grind your teeth while sleeping – you can have a poly-somno-graphic test performed. This tests looks for evidence of jaw muscle activity during the sleep period and the absence of abnormal movement during sleep. Whatever the case, earlier diagnosis of the problem will minimize long-term damage to the teeth and jaws.

Currently, the most common treatment against bruxism is a custom-made mouth-guard that is worn during your sleep to prevent unconscious teeth grinding. Your dentist can make you this mouth-guard that fits over your lower set of teeth and prevents the two sets of teeth from grinding against each other.
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