How Teeth Grinding and Jaw Clenching Can Cause Tooth Sensitivity

When one thinks of tooth sensitivity, tooth decay is often the first culprit that comes to mind. But just because one may have sensitive teeth, doesn’t necessarily mean one has cavities. There are other sources of tooth discomfort. If one doesn’t have cavities, tooth sensitivity can be caused by consuming an overabundance of acidic foods and drinks or acid reflux or teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Like tooth decay, these other causes of tooth sensitivity cause the outer layer of tooth enamel to weaken or become destroyed.

The Bad Habit of Teeth Grinding and Jaw Clenching

Whether you occasionally grind your teeth or clench your jaw during a frustrating or stressful situation during the day or you have nighttime Bruxism and are unaware of your teeth grinding or jaw clenching tendencies, tooth sensitivity can result. Unlike cavities or acidic foods that coat the teeth and seep into the tooth through eating away at the enamel, jaw clenching and tooth grinding weaken and chip away the tooth enamel through excessive pressure and force. While tooth enamel is one of the hardest parts of the body, it is built to handle regular chewing and biting forces. The occasional clenching of the jaw and teeth grinding won’t do much harm to the teeth. It is when one regularly clenches the jaw or grind teeth, that damage to the enamel occurs. Excessive force and the friction between teeth can wear away layers of enamel, slowly exposing the sensitive dentin layer underneath. In some extreme cases, the tooth enamel can become cracked and the tooth fractured. This can also cause the teeth to become sensitive.

The Structure of a Tooth

Each tooth is made of multiple layers. The enamel is the hardest, outermost layer of the tooth that provides protection for the inside of the tooth and gives the teeth the hardiness it needs to bite, chew and grind and hold its position and shape. Underneath the enamel layer is the dentin layer. This layer is the middle layer that is weaker than the enamel layer and which has a faint yellow color to it. The dentin layer wraps around the root and crown of the tooth. Inside the dentin is the dentinal tubule, a fluid filled tube. The innermost layer of the tooth is the tooth pulp. It is in the pulp that the lymph vessels, nerves and blood vessels of the tooth are located. It is through these vessels that the tooth gets its nutrients. Tooth decay or bacteria that seeps down into this inner layer causes extreme pain and requires immediate dental treatment in order to stop the possible spread of infection into the body’s blood stream and to save the tooth. Most cases of tooth sensitivity occur when the enamel layer gets weakened, compromised and penetrated and exposes the dentin layer.

There are multiple causes of tooth sensitivity other than tooth decay. One can be destroying one’s tooth enamel, whereby making the teeth sensitive by excessively or continuously clenching the jaw or grinding the teeth. If you’re experiencing discomfort from teeth that are sensitive, it is recommended that you schedule an appointment with your dentist to have it examined. He or she will be able to tell if the weakened and compromised enamel is due to cavities, acidic foods and drinks or from excessive teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Depending on the cause of your sensitive teeth, he or she will be able to provide the best possible treatment to eliminate your tooth sensitivity.