Force, the Other Dental Adversary

Besides bacterial decay, the other most common adversary to our teeth is force. In addition to the obvious dilemma of an accidental, traumatic blow to our teeth, the forces of clenching or grinding over time will eventually also cause damage. Bruxism is the term applied to the grinding or rubbing of teeth across one another. Bruxism always damages, only in different ways.

The high incidence and predictability of this self-imposed damage makes bruxism and clenching a high focus in our practice here at Austin Skyline Dental. A high percentage of those bruxing away, either during sleep or subconsciously while stressing through portions of the day, are unaware of the process until it is grossly evident. Our doctors and staff routinely screen our patients for early detection of this insidious process.

Some bruxers and clenchers develop muscle fatigue or stress headaches, while others break down in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This often manifests with clicking or popping at the hinge of the jaw. Not uncommon is the uneven wear on the anterior teeth, causing unsightly, shorter teeth. Too often the fracture of posterior teeth is also a result of bruxism. Lastly is breakdown of the supportive soft and hard tissue around the teeth. Gum recession and “V” shaped notches on the cheekward necks of the teeth termed abfractions result from the damaging horizontal forces from bruxism.

Since we can’t stop our patients from bruxing, distributing these otherwise harmful forces is the goal of treatment. Protective splints or “guards” are very conservative and cost effective. When indicated, an equilibration or reshaping of the bite to better distribute force is recommended. Know you will be evaluated for this aspect of risk when becoming a patient in this practice.