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  • Writer's pictureDr Changjie Guo

How far can teeth grinding go?

Teeth grinding (bruxism) is the involuntary clenching, grinding and gnashing of the teeth. It generally happens during sleep, but some people experience it when they are awake. It does not always cause symptoms. Most people who grind their teeth and clench their jaw are not aware they're doing it until their partners tell them or advanced symptoms such as facial and jaw pain, headaches and worn down, sensitive teeth start to emerge.

The cause of teeth grinding is not always clear, but it's usually linked to other factors, such as stress, anxiety or sleep problems. Other factors such as missing or crooked teeth, drug misuse and eruption of teeth, may trigger teeth grinding.

The signs and symptoms of teeth grinding:

  • Fractured, chipped or broken teeth or fillings

  • A dull headache, sore jaws and/or ear pain

  • Aching teeth, and stiffness in the face and temples, particularly after you've just woken up

  • Sore jaws while you're eating, especially at breakfast time

  • Worn-down teeth, which can lead to increased sensitivity and even tooth loss

  • Clenching the jaw when angry, anxious or concentrating

Physical and psychological treatment may be needed to address the range of likely causes of bruxism. Using a night guard or occlusal splint reduces the sensation of clenching or grinding your teeth. They also help reduce pain and prevent tooth wear, as well as protecting against further damage.

This case showed us how much damage teeth grinding can cause. The teeth had been worn down to the nerve, which caused excruciating tooth pain and root canal infection. To treat the infection, the tooth needed root canal treatment or extraction. Nerve exposure was clearly shown on the extracted tooth.


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