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Most people are unaware they grind their teeth because most clenching and grinding occurs during sleep. Persistent bruxism of the teeth will wear down the outer structure of the teeth and can cause them to crack, chip, and break. Grinding can also cause gum recession and tooth sensitivity. During bruxing, the facial muscles around the jaw and sides of skull work very hard. This overuse can cause tenderness, spasm and painful headaches.
Many dentists fail to diagnose and treat bruxism because the process of grinding down teeth takes place over many years. The key to preventing major problems is treatment when the first signs occur. Let your dentist know if you are experiencing headaches, tenderness in your jaw or notice your teeth are becoming shorter, as those are good indicators you may be grinding your teeth at night. If diagnosed at an early stage, the dentist may recommend a custom fitted occlusal guard for you to wear at night to relax the jaw muscles and prevent your teeth from wearing down further.