Renee, one of our blog readers, posted this question:
I have a bad habit of grinding my front teeth. I think it’s just a nervous habit. I’ve done it for about 5 years. I do it all the time day and night. My bottom front three teeth are now smooth across the top. Do I need a mouth guard or anything else to break this nasty habit?
Uncontrolled grinding of teeth is never good. In healthy mouths, the amount of time teeth are in contact is very little. It is important to find the reason for your grinding. For some people, some medications can be the cause, but in the majority of cases I see, it has to do with a mal-alignment of teeth.
Teeth serve many roles for the body. One of the important roles is to help position the upper and lower jaws in relation to each other. They act as nerve extenders that are highly sensitive (about 20 million nerves per tooth) so if the teeth do not send the correct message to your brain like “Do not grind” then your natural defense mechanisms are not working. In other words, grinding is used by the body to help keep the jaw in alignment by wiping away the interferences to proper closing of the jaw. This is why it is important to find the cause of the interference and address it to protect both the jaw joint and the tooth structures.
Regarding mouth-guard /splints when made well and properly adjusted they can be highly effective in protecting the mouth. The key is properly understanding how the mouth is supposed to function so that the splint works in harmony with the jaw joint. I use splints to help me diagnose the extent of the mal-alignment. This help me decide what are the best choices to present to the patient for solution. Once the plan is devised then the implementation can take place. I feel a significant amount of dental problems are related to uncontrolled grinding.
I hope this helps answer your question.
Dr. Sperbeck, West Los Angeles