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Why Do You Grind Your Teeth and What Can You Do About It?

By Dr. Declan Devereux

Recently I was interviewed by WebMD and the topic was why people grind their teeth.

Conventional dental wisdom is that it is caused by a bad bite, joint problems, poorly fitting dental work, and stress. I told them that while I believe all of these things can contribute to tooth grinding the biggest cause is something completely different. I told them I think the reason people grind their teeth is because THEY ARE HUMANS.

The interviewer seemed surprised by my answer so I elaborated. You see if you look at the teeth of our ancestors or even the teeth of people living in more primitive parts of the world you will see far more wear on the chewing surfaces of their teeth than the teeth of people in industrialized societies.

This is caused mainly by two things; the food they eat is not refined and requires a lot more chewing and furthermore often is more abrasive due to less rinsing of food out of the soil. Research has shown that these people often spend three hours a day just chewing their food. I believe this is a natural built in phenomena of being a human, the desire to chew and grind our food. You will not see this in pure carnivores who simply bite and tear their food. You will see the grinding jaw motion in herbivores because it is required to help digest their more fibrous diet. With our more modern diet we loose a lot of the affects of the primitive diet and I feel we subconsciously make up for it by grinding our teeth in our sleep. Therefore I consider it completely normal for people to grind their teeth in their sleep. Unfortunately this "normal" activity causes a whole bunch of problems because our teeth have not been worn flat by our diets. When we grind our teeth they "bang" into each other due to their unworn edges and sloping ridges. This causes, a lot of strain on our jaw joints (TMJ), headaches and neck aches from muscle fatigue, chipped edges, deep crevices along the gum lines, and sensitive teeth.

Since I don't recommend trying to copy the worn teeth of our ancestors as we are likely to live longer than them and will therefore need our teeth longer. I do recommend to wear a protective teeth guard if you grind you teeth a lot at night. If you're not sure just look for some of the tell tale signs I previously noted or try stretching your jaw first thing in the morning by opening wide.

If your jaw feels tight you were probably clenching and grinding the night before. In general nightgaurds take a little getting used to but professionally made ones fit the best and are the most comfortable.

We would be happy to schedule a complimentary consultation to answer any other questions you may have and offer our help. Please call us at 941-5555

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