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grinding teeth
Grinding or clenching of the teeth is a common reaction to increased levels of stress. Courtesy photo
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Feeling stressed? You may have accelerated tooth wear

It’s no surprise that 2020 has been a stressful year for everyone, but did you know that with more stress comes more wear on your teeth?

Grinding or clenching of the teeth is a common reaction to increased levels of stress according to Dr. Mark Galli, an Encinitas dentist. Most of the time it’s happening at night, which means many people aren’t even aware that they’re doing it.

“Unless they have symptoms, most people think they don’t grind their teeth,” Dr. Galli said. “But whether you know it or not, most of us do a little bit of clenching and grinding, especially in stressful times like these.”

Symptoms of grinding or clenching teeth may include headaches, sore muscles or jaws and cracked or broken teeth. One of the most common signs is less obvious: tooth wear.

Like tires on a car, which wear slowly or quickly depending on how you drive, tooth wear can happen at different rates and can be hard to see until it is too late. Most of the time small chips on the front or back teeth can signal a bigger issue.

“Like cracks in a windshield, cracks in teeth never get smaller,” Dr. Galli said.

And though a patient may not have a cracked tooth yet, it’s wise to address wear or a grinding problem sooner rather than later.

“If you wait until you see or feel something is wrong with your tooth, the problem is usually advanced,” Dr. Galli said. “Seeing the dentist regularly to evaluate wear patterns and the function of your teeth should be part of a regular check-up.”

If he sees evidence of damage, he will take close-up photos and discuss options to repair the issue and limit future incidences. Treatment could be as simple as a custom made guard to wear at night.

“We always recommend getting a custom made guard that fits the teeth well and has been adjusted to function properly,” Dr. Galli said.

Even if an over-the-counter night guard seems to fit well, it cannot be adjusted to protect the joints and muscles in function. Over the counter or online nightguards can actually make the problem worse.

Sometimes, if the patient has more wear or chipping that is visible, a rebuild of the teeth and bite is appropriate so they look and function properly.

When Dr. Galli rebuilds teeth, he restores the proper bite and function which protects the other teeth, jaw muscles and joints. It also improves how the mouth looks as well. Though some people may think their teeth aren’t very worn today, Dr. Galli’s concern is the future.

“They may not have symptoms today, but if the wear is there, what I’m really concerned about is what their mouth will look like 10 years from now,” Dr. Galli said.

Other people are hesitant because of their age or they are concerned that it will look artificial. 

“A properly done rebuild appears age-appropriate and not obvious,” Dr. Galli explained. “It should be subtle, beautiful, comfortable and feel very natural.”

It is rarely “too late” for you to have your teeth restored, and many of his rebuild patients have been in their 50s, 60s and even 70s.

“It gives them a restart on their mouth,” Dr. Galli said. “Twenty or thirty more years of good meals and looking great will definitely improve your quality of life.”

Galli said it’s common for patients with complete rebuilds to wish they would have done it 10 years earlier.

To schedule an appointment to see if you have tooth wear, call 760-943-1449 or visit