Under normal circumstances, your teeth should only contact for about 5 minutes each day. Normal chewing results in brief intervals of contact between enamel surfaces, the hardest substance in the human body. Slight amounts of wear over years of function can be expected, and biting edges can chip a little. These durable surfaces, however, should only wear at nearly undetectable rates. Signs of tooth wear should be investigate, understood, and discussed to help prevent serious consequences.
Sometimes teeth develop a flattened, worn appearance, even in young patients. X-rays may demonstrate unusually thin layers of enamel as if sandpaper has been drawn across the chewing surfaces of the teeth. A few minutes of chewing daily simply should not erode the enamel so much and must be corrected.
You May Not Even Know
Some patients develop a subconscious habit of grinding their teeth, either during the day or night. In many cases, the abrasive action occurs only during sleep, and for only a few seconds at a time. If you wake up with a sore jaw or a morning headache, chances are high you are grinding your teeth during the night. In some patients, jaw muscles will begin to develop visibly on the sides of the face from the extra activity. These muscles can be the strongest in the body, ounce for ounce. That means they can generate a lot of unnecessary damage.
The unusual activity not only wears down teeth and strains the overworked muscles. The compressive forces can also damage the intricate jaw joints on one or both sides. Damage to the joints may lead to arthritic changes, chronic pain, and popping or clicking. Once these changes settle in, reversing their condition may become impossible.
Recent studies all show a significant amount of day time grinding. The result of stressful situations in the day can lead us to clench or grind our teeth. Studies have demonstrated this unconscious behavior leads to endorphins being release in the brain which creates a sense of pleasure. Yes pleasure. We actually will like the filling and reinforce that behavior. The end result if not corrected can be severe wear and damage to our mouths.
Avoiding Irreversible Damage
If you are waking up with a sore jaw or headaches, or you have noticed chips or flattening of your teeth, a consult with Drs. Cohen and Patel should be on your list. The sooner the problem receives attention, the less damage there will be and often the easier the fix. Often a carefully calibrated night guard with a distinct bite relationship built in will eliminate the symptoms while protecting your precious enamel.
Daytime habits of clenching or grinding can also be discussed, and strategies to reduce the problem may be developed. Drs. Cohen and Patel will also analyze the current relationship between your teeth to make sure they are moving against each other optimally when you chew. Regardless of the cause, eliminating the strain on the jaw and your teeth as quickly as possible can save you many problems as time goes on.