Interestingly, the Bible has quite a lot to say about the teeth. Song of Solomon expresses their beauty as a flock of cleanly washed sheep bearing twins which is correct anatomy and poetic allegory. Other passages both Old and New Testaments have a fearful connotation of life out of control marked by weeping and gnashing of teeth- even children with their teeth “set on edge”. This has a lot of meaning when the same thing (teeth) is portrayed as the beauty on one hand and the beast on the other. Does that apply today in a dental office? Oh, does it ever! I am astonished at the damage people are doing to their teeth with gnashing otherwise known as bruxism (grinding) or clenching (on edge). We need to look into the matter and attempt to answer the why and offer a solution.
The first consideration is that for most of a 24-hour day, teeth should be apart with lips comfortably closed – no strain. Keeping teeth together is a strain since facial muscles must contract to keep teeth in contact. Total contact time is less than 5 minutes/day – it is a brief touch when swallowing, even with chewing- food keeps teeth apart. Tooth enamel is a precious commodity, there is no getting it back once it is worn away. For good reason, this natural position is called the rest position and this is where teeth need to spend most of their life. You can’t get into trouble with your teeth apart so dentist fashion all kinds of plastic devices to keep teeth from gnashing into each other, trouble is most of them add to the problem by giving the teeth something else to bite against and keep the muscle strain level elevated violating Rule #1 – no contact.
Grinding or clenching teeth during the night interferes with sleep which should be a relaxed and restful state not on red alert arousing muscles into hyperactivity grinding down our beautiful “flock of sheep” into cripples. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why can’t we learn to relax and chill out at night and keep our teeth apart? Everybody with sleep problems has this habit, but not everybody who clenches or grind have sleep problems- yet. I believe it is a matter of time before other harmful effects are demonstrated. You can not overwork a part of the body and get away without side effects.
What counsel can be offered? There are far too many reasons that cause-related problems; allergies, insomnia, inflammation, poor nutrition, acid reflux, malocclusion of teeth, habits, headaches ulcers, heart attack, stroke and the list goes on. Identifying a causative agent for hyperactivity is extremely difficult and there is no magic bullet to stop the habit, but I believe we help you understand what is happening and offer as good of training as there is for eliminating this useless harmful habit. Plus, we offer the best type of tooth guard to lessen the force on the jaw joints and teeth. Call us for an appointment if this is your problem and you want to protect that beautiful flock of sheep.
John B. Harrison DDS, MSc