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Teeth Grinding

Normal chewing results in brief intervals of contact between teeth. Under normal circumstances, your teeth should only contact for about 5 minutes each day. Slight amounts of wear over years of use is common.

Sometimes teeth develop a flattened, worn appearance. X-rays may show unusually thin layers of enamel as if sandpaper has been drawn across the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Daily chewing shouldn't erode the enamel so much.

You Don't Even Know

Some patients develop a subconscious habit of grinding their teeth, either during the day or at night. In many cases, the abrasive action occurs only during sleep, and for only a few seconds at a time. If you wake up with a sore jaw or a morning headache, chances are you are grinding your teeth during the night. In some patients, enlarged jaw muscles develop on the sides of the face from this nighttime grinding. These muscles are, ounce for ounce, the strongest in the body, which means they can do a lot of unnecessary damage.

The unusual activity not only wears down teeth and strains the overworked muscles, but compressive forces can also damage the complex jaw joints on one or both sides. Damage to the joints may lead to arthritic changes, chronic pain, and popping or clicking. Once these changes settle in, reversing their condition may become impossible.

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