Many factors can dramatically affect the rate at which your teeth wear down. For some people, tooth wear doesn’t become a problem until senior age (65+). Still, problematic tooth wear can start at much younger ages for people with temporomandibular joint disorders (sometimes called TMJ or TMD). This can impact your health and make you look older than your chronological age.

Three Types of Tooth Wear

In understanding tooth wear, it’s important to realize that it’s not all the same. Dentists generally recognize three types of tooth wear:

  • Attrition
  • Abrasion
  • Erosion

Attrition is wear caused by teeth contacting each other. Your teeth are the hardest tissues in your body, so they’re well-suited to chewing, but they can wear each other down. Attrition is often incidental to biting and chewing but can also be caused by bruxism (clenching and grinding your teeth). 

Abrasion is wear caused by teeth contacting other objects in the mouth, such as food. Nervous chewing on nonfood is a common cause of abrasion. However, abrasion is also often the result of brushing your teeth too aggressively or using highly abrasive toothpaste (these are often labeled “tartar control” or “whitening” toothpaste). 

Erosion is the chemical breakdown of your tooth enamel. The primary culprit here is acid. Our teeth are very strong, but they’re weak to acidic attack. Even relatively weak acids in food can erode your teeth, but erosion speeds up dramatically if you consume highly acidic foods or drinks. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), binge drinking, and eating disorders with purging behavior (such as bulimia nervosa) can expose your teeth to stomach acid, too. Erosion can accelerate other types of tooth wear by weakening your tooth enamel.

How TMJ Contributes to Tooth Wear

Not everyone with TMJ experiences accelerated tooth wear. However, tooth wear is generally more severe in people with TMJ symptoms than in people without TMJ symptoms. TMJ primarily contributes to the attrition of the teeth through two mechanisms:

  • Bruxism
  • Bad bite

Fortunately, TMJ treatment can address both of these causes of increased attrition. 

Bruxism (Teeth Clenching and Grinding)

Bruxism can significantly accelerate attrition. You might use much more force when clenching your teeth than when biting or chewing. Plus, there’s nothing between your teeth to prevent them from hitting. 

There are many potential causes of bruxism. Bruxism may be the result of stress, but other times, people experience this because they consume too much nicotine, caffeine, or alcohol. Sleep bruxism can also be related to sleep apnea: your jaw clenches in an attempt to hold your airway open. 

Bruxism can contribute to TMJ because it stresses the jaw joints and strains jaw muscles. However, TMJ can also lead to bruxism. For many people with TMJ, the jaw can’t find a comfortable resting position. The muscles try to find that position by clenching and grinding the teeth together. 

Bad Bite

People with TMJ often have a bad bite (malocclusion). This means that your teeth don’t fit together perfectly, and the result can be increased contacts that accelerate attrition. People with TMJ and certain types of malocclusion are more likely to develop accelerated tooth wear.

How TMJ Treatment Protects Your Teeth

Treating TMJ can protect your teeth. It provides multiple forms of protection and can even reverse the damage related to attrition. 

Prevents Bruxism

TMJ treatment protects your teeth from bruxism. In TMJ treatment, we help your jaw find a comfortable rest position that diminishes and may eventually eliminate the urge to clench and grind your teeth. 

Even if you do experience the urge to clench and grind your teeth, your TMJ appliance–also known as a bite splint–is sturdy and designed to keep your teeth from contacting and wearing each other down. 

Improves Your Bite

Simultaneously, TMJ treatment can improve the efficiency of your bite. This will make it easier to chew without your teeth contacting each other and wearing down. 

Repairs Teeth

While many people are happy with TMJ treatment using a bite splint, others want to modify their teeth to enjoy a relaxed jaw position without the appliance. To do this, we will build up your teeth with dental restorations until they achieve the ideal bite that diminishes or eliminates your TMJ symptoms. 

We often describe this treatment as full mouth reconstruction. Restorations cover your natural teeth, protecting them from further damage. In addition, they build your teeth back up, often to their original dimensions.

Prevent Worn Teeth in the Detroit Area

Are you unhappy with the way that TMJ is wearing down your teeth? Don’t let the condition keep breaking down your precious enamel. Instead, let the TMJ dentists at Rochester Advanced Dentistry treat your condition and preserve your teeth. 

Please call (248) 656-2020 or use our online form to request an appointment at our dental office in Rochester, MI.