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How Teeth Grinding Can Destroy Your Smile

Woman grinding her teeth in her sleep.

Teeth grinding may seem benign, but it can actually wreak havoc on your teeth. Grinding your teeth, also known as “bruxism,” is fairly common. In fact, an estimated 10% of adults grind their teeth at night, and up to a third do so during the day. While mild bruxism may be nothing to worry about, moderate to severe cases can cause serious trouble for the health and appearance of your smile.

Consequences of Teeth Grinding

Tooth Decay

Grinding your teeth wears away at the natural protective outer material of the tooth, called the enamel. When this protective layer is eroded, teeth are weakened and more susceptible to infection and decay. Over time, tooth decay can result in discoloration, cavities, abscesses, or tooth loss.  

Chipped or Cracked Teeth

Teeth can become weakened from regular grinding. In addition, the friction grinding puts on the teeth can cause teeth to crack or chip. Not only can broken teeth be unsightly, but bacteria can get into chips and cracks, causing infections and tooth decay.

Receding Gums

Bruxism doesn’t just affect the teeth. It can actually impact the health and appearance of your gums. Grinding can loosen the teeth, creating gaps around the gums that make way for bacteria and can lead to gum disease. Moreover, grinding can also cause damage to the bone structure supporting the teeth. Both of these outcomes can result in gum recession.

Crooked Teeth

Grinding can cause the teeth to move and shift. This can lead teeth to crowd together and become misaligned. Unfortunately, this can happen even if your smile was previously straight or if you have had braces or aligners in the past.

Shortened or Flattened Teeth

As we mentioned, persistent tooth grinding can wear down the enamel of the teeth. Over time, this can lead to noticeably shorter teeth. When the enamel wears away, and the dentin (inner material) is exposed, teeth can appear discolored and wear away at an even faster pace.

Pain or Headaches

In addition to impacting the look and health of your smile, grinding can cause various types of pain. Tooth grinding can result in sensitive teeth, migraine or tension headaches, jaw pain, and joint disorders.

Noticing Signs of Grinding to Seek Professional Help

Tooth grinding often goes unnoticed. It can be an unconscious habit or can occur at night during sleep. Occasionally your partner might notice nighttime tooth grinding, or you may become aware of it yourself if you grind your teeth during the day. Otherwise, the only signs may be the negative effects discussed above, including headaches or jaw pain, worn tooth enamel, increased tooth sensitivity, or loose teeth. If you suspect you might grind your teeth, make an appointment with Tompkins Dental to evaluate your symptoms.

Treatment Options

Grinding your teeth can have serious negative effects. Fortunately, there are options to treat bruxism as well as the damage it causes. The sooner you get treatment, the better the outcome.

Night Guards

Personalized night guards can be worn to protect teeth from damage due to sleep bruxism. It is a good idea to visit us for a consultation. Over-the-counter mouthguards may not fit properly and can be uncomfortable and ineffective.


You are probably familiar with Botox’s cosmetic uses. It is also an off-label treatment option for teeth grinding and clenching. Botox is injected into the muscles that control the jaw, relaxing them without affecting your appearance.


Bruxism can be a side effect of certain medications. Discuss all of your medications with your dentist, although you should not stop taking any medication without talking to your doctor, there may be alternatives you can consider. Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and other drugs are also associated with teeth grinding. Limiting your use of these substances might be something to consider.

Cosmetic Dental Treatments

There are also a variety of treatment options for the negative results of teeth grinding. Your treatment plan will depend on the type and extent of the damage to your teeth. Dental treatments for compromised enamel or tooth decay can range from fluoride to fillings to a root canal. Cosmetic treatments to restore your smile include crows or bridges, inlays or onlays, or veneers.

Schedule a consultation at Tompkins Dental so we can develop a comprehensive plan to treat tooth grinding as well as address any damage that has been done to give you the best possible smile.

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