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How does force damage teeth?

Dustin S. Burleson, DDS
Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics
Force placed on teeth can be described in two categories, functional forces and parafunctional forces. Functional forces, such as swallowing and chewing, rarely cause tooth damage.  

Parafunctional forces are those forces outside or beyond the normal forces placed on teeth. Examples of parafunctional forces include clenching or grinding and can lead to tooth damage. Loss of enamel (the protective outer coating of the teeth) is seen with parafunctional forces. If left untreated, parafunctional forces can lead to loss of dentin (the softer inner layer of teeth).

If you believe excessive force or parafunctional habits (clenching, grinding) are causing tooth damage, see your dentist for a comprehensive examination. He or she will review the signs, symptoms and possible treatment for damaged teeth as a result of excess force. In the meantime, avoid acidic foods and drinks (citrus juices, soda) as these can cause increased tooth damage in the presence of heavy forces.
Force can damage teeth by breaking dental fillings or damaging the enamel. Bruxism, or grinding your teeth, is an example of force which often leads to tooth damage. Bad chewing habits, such as chewing on ice or hard candy, or a blow to your mouth, also are forces that can damage your teeth. They can cause cracks in teeth, especially in teeth with large fillings.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.