Wear at the Gumline Could Be Due to Bruxism

Sep 24, 2014, by Dr. Becky Coats
Bruxism, or clenching the teeth, can be very damaging. It not only results in wear at the top of our teeth, it can also cause excessive wear at the gumline, what is often described as cervical notching.

How Enamel Is Affected by Tooth Clenching

Tooth enamel is very hard, the hardest substances in the human body, but this hardness comes at a cost. Although it is hard, tooth enamel is also brittle and inflexible, which makes it vulnerable to shattering and breakage.

Our teeth don’t shatter very often because they have a structural solution that helps protect them from damage. Our enamel is composed of rods, which lie one on top of the other. This rod structure allows the enamel to acquire a small amount of flex when major forces push down on the tooth and squish the internal structure, dentin, which is a little bit softer. When the dentin squishes, the enamel flexes by allowing its rods to slightly separate from one another.

The flexing of the enamel tends to be worse near the edge of the enamel, the part of the tooth where the crown meets the root, what is called the neck of the tooth.

How Clenching Leads to Erosion

Ironically, although the separation of the rods protects your enamel from one type of damage, it makes it vulnerable to other types. Once the rods start to separate, their surface area increases, which makes them more easily damaged by the numerous attacks that our teeth have to endure.

Acidic drinks like soda or fruit juice can penetrate into the cracks, eroding your teeth more rapidly.

Brushing can also cause significant damage to rods that have become separated. Abrasives in the toothpaste and even the bristles of the toothbrush can erode enamel that’s been separated in this way.

Some people even believe that once the rods become separated, they can begin to flake off essentially on their own without any additional outside force.

No matter the cause, when this enamel breaks down around the gumline it results in a feature we call cervical notching, referring to its location at the neck of the teeth.

How to Respond to Cervical Notching

Once we know that bruxism is to blame for your cervical notching, we can respond. By treating the underlying causes of the bruxism, you can avoid, eliminate, or at least lessen TMJ  and its related symptoms, such as jaw pain and headaches.

If you have started to notice wear around your gumline, please call 817-442-3331 for an appointment with a Grapevine TMJ dentist at Grapevine dental Care.