Teeth grinding — is it an autoimmune disease?
by Dr. Nicholas Meyer —
What do teeth grinding and autoimmune diseases have in common? Teeth grinding is the aggressive wear of the enamel and dentin from one jaw to the opposing jaw’s tooth structures. Autoimmune diseases are essentially dysfunctions in which your body attacks itself as if it were a foreign invader. These types of diseases are always of a soft tissue nature, with bone also considered soft tissue. Teeth are considered hard tissue. In fact, tooth enamel is the hardest structure in the human body.
Teeth can be “attacked or assaulted” for many reasons, some of which are unknown. Airway embarrassment is a common reason. In this case, the air passage is narrower than it should be, resulting in a bottleneck that restricts the passage of air. The body senses this and causes the clenching or grinding to occur in an effort to open the air passage through a compensation of the system.
Emotional release is also tied to teeth grinding, as are parasites (worms) and an uncomfortable bite. Other reasons stem from sore teeth due to gum disease, where the clenching acts as a pressure anesthesia or even the notion that one must “set” their teeth and thus, regularly clench them together.
Grinding is an extremely harmful activity to the system of the muscles, bones and teeth, along with nerves, connective tissues and contiguous structures. This behavior keeps the nervous system in a state of preparedness, ready for action — fight or flight.
This is good if you have to run away from a tiger or a mugger, but during sleep, it is very disruptive to the nervous system, which must calm down to allow nurturing repair to occur. Furthermore, the sleep cycle is altered by grinding, meaning you are much more apt to wake up tired.
The grinding also overloads the neuromuscular system and can cause a plethora of symptoms, headache being a common one. A more comprehensive list of symptoms can be found at milldental.com.
In closing, with the aggressive wear of the dentition, you might need dental rehabilitation to rebalance the jaws and then rebuild most, if not all, of your teeth. This is a very time-consuming process, as well as an expensive one. So do yourself a big favor and get a bite guard if your doctor recommends one for you.
Nicholas Meyer, D.D.S., D.N.M., is a general dentist in Scottsdale, Ariz., who has a special interest in developmental disturbances of the facial complex that contribute to such maladies as TMJ, snoring and sleep apnea. milldental.com, DrMeyer@milldental.com or 480-948-0560.
Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 33, Number 4, August/September 2014.