Worn Teeth

Worn, Chipped, or Cracked Teeth

Many people assume that worn teeth are “normal” and a sign of age. That might be easy understand if only senior citizens had worn teeth. But in actuality, many people in their teens and twenties have worn teeth. Teeth seldom have contact in normal use. Most people have what is called “freeway space” or a gap of about an eighth of an inch between their upper and lower teeth when the jaw is at rest. When we eat, food between the teeth keeps the teeth from coming into direct contact. It’s swallowing that forces the teeth together, and we swallow over 2000 times a day.

Teeth wear is a result of parafunction. The disharmony of the jaw muscles between the upper and lower jaws causes the teeth to contact leading to clenching and grinding. This force is extreme, especially during sleep. This parafunctional habit of clenching and grinding the teeth is due to a disharmony between the position where the teeth come together best for chewing (habitual occlusion) and the position where the two jaws are related to each other when all the muscles of the jaws and posturing muscles of the head and neck are relaxed and unstrained (Neuromuscular occlusion). It’s as though the lower jaw is trying to grind away anything in its path from habitual occlusion to neuromuscular occlusion.

In addition, airway obstructions can lead to extreme parafunction. We see this in children who grind (upper airway obstruction….need to remove tonsils and adenoids), and in obese patients who stop breathing when they sleep. In an attempt to open the airway and let more air in, patients position their jaws forward, getting the tongue out of the way. When the jaw comes forward, upper and lower teeth can and often do come into contact causing grinding and chipping and extreme wear.

Our Raleigh Dentists Treat The Cause, Not Just The Symptoms

Any attempts to fix broken teeth or worn teeth with veneers or crowns will prove futile if the parafunction is not addressed. Whatever damage a patient with a parafunctional habit can do to natural teeth, they can do to porcelain. Dentists must be trained to diagnose what is causing the wear and chipping, and remove that force prior to restoring teeth. In addition, all patients should be screened for Obstructive Sleep Apnea to rule out this possibly deadly problem. Our Raleigh dentists are experts in finding the root cause of your worn teeth and providing a solution that address both the immediate concern and the cause.