Excessive tooth wear is a common symptom of TMJ. Damaged teeth may need to be repaired or they may be lost. But what constitutes “excessive” tooth wear? How can you tell the difference between a normal level of tooth wear and excessive tooth wear that needs attention? Here are some clues that your teeth might be wearing faster than they should be.
Your Teeth Are More Worn Than Other People Your Age
Almost by definition, normal tooth wear relates to the average amount of wear experienced by people over time. So if your teeth are more worn down than other people of your age, then you have excessive tooth wear. You can’t necessarily measure this exactly, but one quick indicator is the relative length of the central incisors versus the laterals. The central incisors start out longer than the laterals, but wear often makes them the same length.
Also, if you have crooked teeth, a tooth that isn’t in the same plane as most of your teeth will be worn down less. If you can easily tell the difference, you may have excessive tooth wear.
Is Tooth Wear Increasing?
Normal tooth wear is fairly constant, influenced mostly by the action of the teeth cutting and grinding food. Since we eat about the same amount every year, we should experience the same amount of wear year in and year out.
But if your tooth wear is related to a bad bite, it can begin to speed up. Teeth wear down in part because your jaw position isn’t healthy, but as the teeth wear down more, the jaw position becomes even worse, leading to more tooth wear. So, if you have a sense that your teeth are becoming worn down faster than they used to, you need to talk to a neuromuscular dentist about it.
Cracking, Chipping, and Discomfort
Normal wear doesn’t destroy teeth. If your teeth are cracking and chipping on a regular basis, then you’re experiencing more than normal tooth wear.
Normal tooth wear is also not supposed to hurt. If you’re experiencing pain because of worn down teeth, then you need to talk to a dentist about it.
You might even be able to see the problem. The outer layer of your teeth is called enamel, and it should be the only type of tissue that you should be able to see. If you look at the chewing surfaces of your teeth and see different colors of tissue, then your wear is becoming a problem. It’s exposing dentin, or, possibly the soft pulp inside your teeth. And once the pulp is exposed, you are at risk for serious tooth infections.
Making Your Teeth Last a Lifetime
In the end, the question that matters isn’t whether your tooth wear is normal. The question that matters is: will your teeth last for a lifetime at this rate of wear? If they won’t, then we need to take action. That may just mean restoring the teeth. However, if you are experiencing excessive wear, it’s important to track down the source of that wear, which may mean restoring your bite to a healthy balance.