Tooth health: sensitive teeth and teeth grinding
Teeth sensitivity may be caused by many things, and may range from occasional and mild discomfort to severe pain that lasts for long periods of time. A very common cause is when the enamel covering the teeth is lost, exposing the dentine underneath. The dentine surface may react to changes in temperature, pressure, acidity or to the presence of chemicals.
Sensitive teeth can be caused by a number of factors.
- Abrasion: tooth wear casued by forceful brushing, or an excessively abrasive diet
- Erosion: tooth wear caused by prolonged contact with acidic or sugary food or drink, or occasionally due to illnesses that create an acid reflux that reaches the mouth
- Attrition: tooth wear caused by clenching or grinding your teeth to the extent that the enamel is worn away, or lost due to flexing of the teeth (known as abfraction)
- A cracked tooth or filling
- Gum disease: gum shrinkage resulting in the exposure of the root surface is often an early sign of this
- Teeth whitening or bleaching: the degree of sensitivity varies from person to person, but is a frequent side-effect. The sensitivity can be significant, but is usually a temporary problem.
- Dental procedures: tooth restoration, root surface debridement, crown placement, or any treatment that exposes a tooth’s root may cause short-term sensitivity
Given the many factors that contribute to sensitive teeth, it is important to maintain good dental hygiene and be aware of any behaviours or treatments that may lead to sensitive teeth.
- Brush and floss your teeth daily, but be careful not to brush too aggressively, and change your toothbrush regularly so that the bristles stay correctly aligned and soft.
- Limit your consumption of acidic, carbonated, and sugar-filled products, particularly between meals
- If you grind or clench your teeth, look into solutions for this problem, which may include a night mouth guard. It is best to visit a dental professional to address this problem.
- If you are considering whitening your teeth, speak with our clinical team at Space Healthcare about the possibility of tooth sensitivity and your suitability for whitening.
Various brands of toothpaste are designed for sensitive teeth. If sensitivity persists after a couple weeks, however, it would be best to consult our clinical team about the problem.
When you visit us at Space Healthcare, we’ll try to identify the source of your sensitivity, and tackle the problem from the source. We may also use a desensitising product, a fluoride rinse or gel, or even a filling if there is damage to the dentine.
What is Teeth Grinding?
The technical term for teeth grinding is bruxism, and this term refers to a range of activity from long-term clenching of your teeth to significant teeth grinding. Bruxism occurs in most people at some point during their lives, but is usually short-lived, mild and not a major cause for concern. However, bruxism can at times cause health problems, particularly among those prone to night-time teeth grinding. In fact, bruxism is one of the most common sleep disorders across populations.
The precise cause of bruxism is not known, though it has often been linked to stress and anxiety. Other factors associated with bruxism include malocclusion, high levels of dietary caffeine and alcohol consumption, smoking, obsessive compulsive disorders, other sleep disorders and other disorders such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Many people who grind their teeth are completely unaware of doing so, and often it is a partner who alerts them to their habit. Some, though, experience symptoms, such as jaw pain and headaches, which are often worse in the mornings. Other symptoms can include insomnia, depression, vertigo, earaches and eye irritation. Bruxism is the leading cause of occlusal trauma (damage to the teeth due to contact with other teeth), as well as a significant cause of tooth loss and gum recession.
Bruxism can be difficult to diagnose, as there are a number of factors that may be responsible for tooth wear. One way to diagnose the disorder is using EMG (electromyographic) measurements, which pick up electric signals from chewing muscles. Though EMGs are frequently used in sleep labs, there are also varieties available for consumer use.
It’s important to attend for regular dental examinations and hygienist care. At Space Healthcare we can often identify early signs of the disorder.
There is no one single cure for bruxism, although some reports suggest that it can be reduced or eliminated by treating associated factors, such as other sleep disorders. Reducing stress or addressing other lifestyle factors may also help reduce teeth grinding. Unfortunately some people seem to develop bruxism as a long-term condition that forms part of their every-day life.
Botox and muscle relaxants have occasionally been used as a form of treatment. In addition, dental treatments can help correct malocclusions that may be contributing to bruxism, as well as repair any damage that has been done.
Dental guards, or splints, fitted and monitored by a dentist, can be used for ongoing management of bruxism. To be effective these are usually made from a hard plastic. Soft splints, made of materials like sports mouth-guards, are usually ineffective and may potentially make the problem worse. Hard or soft splints must be worn each night, and help reduce tooth damage and problems caused by bruxism. However, splints do not address the cause of the teeth grinding.