Bruxism is a well-known condition that affects a significant percentage of the population. It’s when a person is grinding or clenching their teeth even when they’re not chewing. So, those experiencing bruxism basically make a chewing motion that makes their upper and lower sets of teeth rub against each other, or they clench their jaw, which means that they clench the muscles and hold their teeth together without moving the teeth back and forth.
While there’s a lot of study on sleep bruxism, it turns out that awake bruxism is more common, i.e., a majority of those experiencing bruxism do it during waking hours; however, it’s important to note that people don’t necessarily grind or clench their teeth consciously, even when they’re fully awake.
Experts are also exploring the different causes that lead to bruxism. So far, they’ve deduced that it can be caused by several different factors that may or may not be related. For instance, some people may experience bruxism due to stress or personality disorders. Others may grind their teeth due to jaw alignment problems or other dental concerns. Alternatively, some studies have also found that bruxism is largely genetic in some cases.
What’s important to focus on, though, are the effects of bruxism, including the short- and long-term damage it can cause. By understanding the health risks, you can not only prevent the damage through proactive measures like the use of night guards for teeth grinding, but you can also treat health issues due to bruxism before they become a more permanent problem.
Does Bruxism Lead to Nerve Damage?
The short answer is yes; bruxism can lead to nerve damage. But it’s important to understand that the extent of damage done by bruxism depends on the severity of your teeth grinding and on how long you’ve been experiencing bruxism.
For many people, nerve damage is a very real possibility if they've been dealing with bruxism since a young age and if they grind their teeth during the day and at night. This is because the more you grind your teeth, the more damage you do to your enamel. The enamel is the thin protective layer protecting your teeth, but while it's thin, it's incredibly resistant and can last your entire lifetime; however, some factors can make enamel wear off over time, including teeth grinding.
In fact, teeth grinding can massively affect the enamel on your teeth and can make them wear off much faster. As a result, your tooth's inner parts, i.e., the dentin and nerves, get exposed since they no longer have their protective cover. Once exposed, the nerves become extremely sensitive to hot and cold temperatures and cause other problems.
One thing you may experience due to nerve damage from bruxism is trigeminal neuralgia. This is a typical shock-like nerve pain from the trigeminal nerve, which is a nerve that comes from the brain stem. Usually, this condition needs a trigger, and it could be something as minimal as smiling or brushing your teeth. So, it’s safe to say that clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth can also trigger trigeminal neuralgia.
How Do You Know If You Have Nerve Damage from Bruxism
Well, if you have trigeminal neuralgia, the shock-like pain you constantly experience will be an indication in itself. That being said if you have a damaged nerve due to bruxism, there are other symptoms you can look out for. For example:
- Consuming sweet, hot, or cold foods may be painful
- Cold air entering your mouth will feel uncomfortable
- There might be a discomfort when flossing or brushing your teeth
- Alcohol-based mouthwashes may be painful
- Anything touching the exposed teeth and nerves will cause pain
Generally, though, you’ll find it hard to identify a clear pattern in terms of the discomfort and pain you feel. There will likely be mild discomfort if the nerve isn’t too exposed, but you’ll definitely feel more intense and almost stabling pain if the nerve is significantly exposed.
Is The Nerve Damage from Bruxism Permanent?
Nerve damage from bruxism may be serious, but it doesn't always have to be permanent. This is especially true in nerve damage cases linked to bruxism because a large part of the problem is the nerve being exposed, and usually, dentists can do procedures to reverse the damage to some extent.
For example, if there is very little nerve exposure, some filling will help take care of it since no cold or hot liquids or other stimulants can make their way to the nerves. On the other hand, if the nerve damage is permanent and severe, you will need a root canal during which the damaged and exposed nerve will be completely removed, and the tooth area will be sealed. This is definitely a helpful approach if you feel a lot of pain due to the damaged nerve.
Other Permanent Health Issues Bruxism May Lead To
Besides nerve damage, there are several other health issues bruxism may lead to. Some of these are permanent health concerns that cause a lot of discomfort and pain, but many are reversible once you have your teeth-grinding habits under control. Here are the ones that are most common and the ones you should look out for:
- Tooth damage – this is part of what leads to nerve damage due to bruxism. When you frequently grind and clench your teeth, there's major tooth enamel loss that weakens and damages your teeth overall.
- Migraines – Teeth grinding can take a toll on your facial muscles, and that can trigger tension headaches and migraines. Moreover, sleep bruxism affects your sleep quality, contributing to migraines and their severity.
- Jaw disorders – Jaw disorders like TMJ pain are one of the most common side effects of bruxism, and it can make it very hard to swallow, talk, or chew.
- Gum Recession – When you constantly grind your teeth, it may cause the teeth to shift and become loose. This creates pockets in your gum line and encourages bacterial growth that causes the gum to recede.
What Can You Do to Address the Health Issues Caused by Bruxism
The best way to address many of the health concerns caused by bruxism is to tackle the problem at its root, i.e., find ways to control your teeth grinding and clenching. Depending on the severity of your teeth grinding, it may take a while to get results, but you can mostly get things under control through some simple measures like:
- Jaw exercises and massages
- Dental corrections (if dental concerns are causing the teeth grinding)
- Better stress management
- Muscle relaxants
- Botox injections
- A change in sleeping habits (including what you eat/drink before bed, your sleeping position, and so on)
These are some ways you can get your teeth grinding under control. At the same time, to stop the damage caused by bruxism in its track right away, you can invest in dental guards. These will not treat bruxism, but they will definitely help you cease the damage being done to your teeth and nerves.
Just make sure to get a custom mouth guard for teeth grinding, like what we offer at Clear Comfort Night Guards. We have some excellent teeth-grinding guards for sale that can be customized according to your needs.