Teeth are designed to fit together smoothly, with the top and bottom teeth touching only when chewing. We all clench our teeth to some degree; it is a natural result of stress or anger, for example. However, frequent unnatural clenching or grinding of the teeth is the result of a condition called bruxism. An estimated 20% of the population suffers from this condition, which can cause dental health problems.
When you clench your teeth tightly together, you are putting a lot of stress on your teeth (average healthy human molars can produce about 200 pounds of force). This pressure and stress can cause microfractures or even large cracks in your teeth.
Frequent grinders can expect their tooth enamel to wear away at a rate 6 times faster than those who don’t suffer from bruxism. Bruxism can also lead to side effects such as jaw pain, recessed gums, and frequent headaches.
Possible treatments may include custom mouth guards, special exercises, medication, or surgery in extreme cases.