My front teeth are getting a little shorter from my grinding, but it doesn’t really bother me

This is the result of teeth grinding over a 2 year period in a 38 year old!

This is the result of teeth grinding over a 2 year period in a 38 year old!

“My old dentist told me I grind my teeth.  I do know my front teeth are getting a little worn, but they don’t bother me.” This is a sentence I hear in my practice quite often.  In fact, most patients who grind their teeth excessively show wear in their teeth without any other symptoms.  Often people think this is a normal part of the “aging process” and is to be expected.  Unfortunately, in our practice we often see patients in their 30’s and 40’s with 25% or more of their teeth worn down.  Once the wear pattern starts, however slowly, it often gains in speed with time.  By the time a patient “really gets worried” either the tooth becomes loose or wears down to only a few millimeters above the gum!

Have a look again at the photograph above. This is a patient in our office, and the top part of the picture was taken two years ago.  At that time, we informed our patient about the wear pattern we were starting to see in his front teeth due to grinding and bite disease, and we discussed some solutions for this problem.  He declined to treat his bite dysfunction at that time. The bottom part of the photograph was taken last week…and we can easily see that not only has the tooth gotten shorter, but the bone and gum helping to hold that tooth in is melting away! The scariest part of the photographs?  This patient is only 38 years old! Unless he acts quickly to correct his tooth grinding problem, he WILL lose that front tooth!

I have a nightguard, I thought that would be good enough to fix my problem!

A nightguard doesn’t actually fix anything, all it does is act like a doorstop to keep a badly-hung door from slamming shut.  If your teeth don’t fit together properly your body will cause your muscles to work overtime to grind the teeth away until they touch at the same time.  Unfortunately, this constant grinding can cause great wear and tear on teeth that are expected to last a lifetime. For the patient above, I’m not so sure his teeth will outlast him!

These are the teeth of a 57 year old male with bite disease

These are the teeth of a 57 year old male with bite disease

If the patient shown in the above photograph decides to begin treatment to correct his bite, he can avoid having his teeth look like those of another patient in our practice who is 57 years old, shown in the photograph to the left. These teeth are now only a few millimeters long, and correcting this patient’s bite at this stage will be a much more complicated treatment!  If only we knew THIS patient 20 years ago, he could have avoided this stage!

Look in the mirror right now. Do you see wear and chipping of your front teeth? Are some of your teeth loosening, or the gums “receeding”? If so, you were probably aware of this before even taking another look. Perhaps you weren’t aware there was something you could do now to significantly slow down this process. The great news is that we know how to help you protect your teeth and help keep them for life.

Dr. Andrea Stevens is a cosmetic and family dentist in practice in Kanata, Ontario. If you have dental questions, you can call her at 613-271-7091 or visit her at kanatacosmeticdentist.com Please also feel free to leave comments or questions below, and Dr. Stevens will be happy to answer!