Q: What do you do when you wear your teeth down?
I’m retiring soon and I realize now I’ve got big-time wear on my front teeth as well as my back teeth, though it’s my front teeth I’m worried about. I’ve gone to the dentist fairly regularly and he’s done fillings, some crowns on my back teeth – even a root canal, all in the past 10 years.
I’ve moved to a different city so I looked around to find a dentist to make sure I was leaving my employment with all my dental work up to date.
He was very thorough and in the exam asked if my wife heard me when I ground my teeth in my sleep. I said no, she says I snore and that my mouth is always open.
He asked me how I chew my food. He asked if I chew and chew and chew every mouth full. I said no, “I mash quickly and gulp”. He asked if I have sleep apnea. I said no, I know what that is because my brother-in-law has that and has just gone through a big diagnosis and now wears a machine to help him breathe at night.
He asked if my job is stressful to which I said – very. I have a stressful job because I have responsibility for several thousand people. He asked me if I ever found my teeth tight together. I said what do you mean, teeth are always supposed to be together aren’t they? When he explained that teeth should be apart and only touch when one swallows I was blown away. So now because of the way I deal with stress I find out that I’ve chewed my teeth in half. What do I do?
A: You have several choices. The first thing is to assess the appearance of your teeth. Sometimes they fit your smile in an acceptable manner even though they are worn. If this is the case managing your grinding may be an option. Given you are entering your retirement, you may no longer have the stress of your job and your clenching and grinding might decrease dramatically.
If your teeth do not pass this assessment and/or the function you need is lost, you will need to have your teeth rebuilt to their natural length with crowns. Done well, this will prove to be both an aesthetic and functional boon to your dental health and presentation. Be deliberate; get a thorough exam and diagnosis. Doing this ten years from now will be more expensive and you may not have dental benefits.
This process is called full mouth reconstruction. It can take as long as a few months to a year and a half depending on your need for implants, bone grafting and other involved treatments.