Have you lately been having headaches that won’t go away?
Do you have earaches and jaw pain when you’re eating or yawning?
Has your partner delicately commented that you seem disturbed and upset?
Should you visit your dentist, she might talk about the possibility of bruxism and suggest getting teeth grinding guards. Also called a night guard or mouth guard for teeth grinding, the appliance protects you from bruxism. Unconsciously rubbing your teeth together sideways in your sleep or clenching your jaw are all signs of bruxism. If left untreated, the condition could cause the wearing and erosion of the tooth enamel and other dental problems like broken and chipped teeth.
What is Bruxism?
When you grind, clench, or gnash your teeth, that is a condition called bruxism. Patients who have this problem clench their teeth during the day or night often without realizing it. If you have night or nocturnal bruxism, know that it is often related to other sleep disorders. In addition to teeth-gnashing, you may also snore. Or, need treatment for sleep apnea where you stop breathing for a few seconds. Not all people display signs regularly. You might show symptoms only on days when you’re anxious or stressed. Wearing a night guard can help you get rid of the habit.
How to Tell if You have Bruxism and Need Night Guards
While your dentist can check your dental structure and warn you about having bruxism, you may notice several other symptoms. For instance:
- Lacerations or wounds in the inside of your cheeks when you chew them
- Disturbed sleep
- Dull headaches that center around the temples
- Pain and soreness in the face, jaw, or neck
- Aching teeth and gums or increased sensitivity to hot and cold foods
- Damage to your teeth such as flattening, chipping, fracturing, or cracking
- Loosened or missing teeth
- Strained or tense jaw muscles making it impossible for you to open or close your mouth properly
- Ear pain without any sign of an infection or excessive earwax buildup
- Worn away enamel so the inner layers of the tooth are exposed
Your partner may talk about hearing you clench or grind your teeth at night. The sounds could be loud enough to awaken the person sleeping next to you. Thankfully, options like teeth grinding guards are now available to help you with these problems.
Why Bruxism Happens
Although experts are not really sure why patients develop bruxism, they do indicate several triggers that can set off the grinding. Your dentist will likely explore the causes by asking you a series of questions like:
- Are you taking any prescribed medications like antidepressants, amphetamines, or antipsychotics?
- Do you smoke? Do you drink alcohol and caffeinated drinks before going to bed?
- Have you been taking recreational drugs?
- Is there a possibility that you have chronic fatigue and feel exhausted all the time?
- Do you have any family members who complain of the same symptoms as yours?
- Have you been diagnosed with mental health problems like dementia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), night terrors, Huntington’s Disease, or Parkinson’s Disease?
- Have you been diagnosed with medical problems like epilepsy or gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD)?
Getting a tooth guard can also prevent bruxism that results from excessive stress. Or, if you have a hyperactive and competitive personality. While people of any age can develop the condition, bruxism is typically more common among children who tend to outgrow the symptoms. Around 15% to 33% of kids grind their teeth when they’re cutting their baby and permanent teeth. Once most of the teeth emerge, kids will likely stop the habit. If needed, your family dentist may recommend that you get teeth grinding guards for your child.
Mouth Guards are Simple Preventive Tools
Teeth grinding guards are simple appliances that you can insert at night and remove in the morning. Typically made of rubber, acrylic, plastic, or laminate materials, the mouth guards or dental splints work to prevent the teeth in the upper and lower jaws from coming into contact. In this way, the barrier protects the enamel from wearing away. Your dentist will likely take a putty cast and order a customized device that fits perfectly. Most patients can get effective results by wearing a night guard on the upper teeth only. But, you may need another set for the lower teeth if you also have braces.
Do keep in mind that a mouth guard for teeth grinding or night guard won’t prevent bruxism. They only work to prevent the damage to your teeth caused by the habit. Over time, you could wear away the guard and have to get a replacement. Further, you may not get adequate relief from muscular pain that results from bruxing. For this reason, your doctor will likely recommend other solutions to help you break the habit of teeth clenching.
Occlusion Guards are Easy to Use and Safe
Your dentist will advise you to start wearing the teeth grinding guard a couple of hours a day, so you get accustomed to it. In the beginning, having an unfamiliar object in your mouth could make it hard to fall asleep. But, since the appliance is soft and pliable, you’d adjust soon enough. Put the occlusal guard in just before you go to sleep and make sure to clean it regularly. You need not be concerned about pain and discomfort. Expect that you can speak and breathe normally even when wearing the device. If you’re uncomfortable, do let your dentist know so that she can make the required adjustments for a proper fit.
Bruxism Can be Corrected by Repairing Malocclusions
Many patients have bruxism because of improper occlusion. In other words, the upper and lower jaws don’t meet as they should at rest. As a result, you may develop the urge to rub the teeth against each other. With careful examination, the doctor can identify the cause and recommend the proper treatments to correct the problem. For instance, she may suggest cosmetic dentistry to repair the alignment of the teeth and prevent teeth grinding.
Supplement Additional Solutions to Help with Bruxism
Aside from teeth grinding guards, your dentist will help you make several lifestyle changes so you can get over the bruxism.
- Sign up for stress counseling to relieve anxiety and the urge to clench your teeth.
- Start a regular exercise program to relax your mind and body. Yoga, meditation, biofeedback therapy, and mindfulness are good techniques.
- Lower the intake of foods and beverages that contain caffeine including sodas, coffee, tea, and chocolate.
- Cut back or give up alcohol completely.
- Use your teeth to chew only food. If you tend to bite on pencils, pens, or like to chew gum, give up the habit.
- Start a diary to maintain a record of the number of times you realize you’re bruxing. Identify the triggers that make you clench your jaw. In this way, you can make a conscious effort not to tense up.
- When you feel stressed, breathe deeply by opening the mouth a little. Or, place the tongue between the teeth to prevent them from biting down.
- Your dentist may advise that you check your sleep environment. Make sure that the room is dark and tranquil, and that the bed is comfortable so you have a relaxed sleep. Place electronics like televisions, computers, laptops, tablets, and other devices outside the bedroom.
- If you’re in the habit of sleeping on your back, switch to the side position. You’ll prevent sleep apnea and bruxism, which are typically inter-related problems.
- In addition to getting teeth grinding guards, you could also have your medical practitioner check your prescriptions. Switch to medications that don’t trigger teeth clenching.
Bruxism Can Have Several Long-Term Ill-Effects
If your doctor detects bruxism, it is advisable that you follow her directions and do your best to break the habit. Aside from the typical pain and worn-down teeth, bruxism can have several long-term effects. Your dentist may order you a mouth guard for teeth grinding to help you prevent related problems.
- Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD) – You may develop arthritis of the joint connecting the jaw bone to the rest of the facial structure. Or, you could wear out the disc in the joint.
- Eroded teeth because of which you may need dental treatments like inserting crowns, bridges, and implants. In case you have severe damage, your dentist may have to advise root canal treatments. In extreme cases, temporary or permanent dentures may be the only solution.
- Lockjaw where the patient is unable to fully open the mouth without pain and discomfort.
- Gum recession where the gums also wear away because of the regular force and the teeth seem elongated.
- Nerve damage because of tiny cracks in the enamel.
- Changes in the shape of your face when the muscle tissues at the back of the mouth bulk up because of the constant motion.
The erosion of your teeth from bruxing results in more than just pain and discomfort. You might find that you’re running up high dental expenses because of damaged teeth. Getting implants, crowns, and other treatments can cost you a lot more than investing in simpler preventive measures like, for instance, a teeth grinding guard.
The Connection Between Sleep Apnea and Bruxism – How Wearing Night Guards Can Help
Many people who have sleep apnea also tend to develop bruxism. When sagging airways cut off your breathing at night, the brain reacts with a failsafe method. Neurotransmitters stimulate the jaw to clench down so that you awaken slightly and change position. Once normal breathing restores, you fall right back to sleep. However, most patients are unaware that they’ve woken up. They’re also unaware that they’ve been bruxing. Teeth grinding guards push your lower jaw and tongue slightly forward. As a result, the airways remain open and you prevent sleep apnea.
Night guards can work like a dual-effect solution to help you with both, sleep apnea and bruxism. With the advice of your doctor, also consider investing in a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) or Automatic Positive Airway Pressure (APAP) machine. You’ll use this device at night when sleeping. Since it forces air down your throat and keeps air passages open, you’ll avoid bruxing.
Over the Counter Night Guards May Not Work as Expected
Teeth grinding guards are available at your local pharmacy and you can also order them online. Some websites offer you putty kits that you can use to take an impression and send it to the company. You’ll receive a dental guard molded according to the shape of your teeth. However, it is advisable that you consult an accredited dentist and ask if you need to wear an occlusion guard. She will examine you and provide the right mouth guard for teeth grinding. Not only can the professional make adjustments as needed, but you’ll also avoid the risk of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder that can result from an ill-fitting appliance.
Get Long-Term Relief with Expert Advice
Teeth clenching and bruxing can result in a host of other problems. You’ll have trouble sleeping and getting adequate rest. As a result, taking care of personal and professional commitments can become difficult. A good solution is to contact your dentist and talk about the best options available to you. She will likely suggest that you get teeth grinding guards that will help you deal with the problem. You’ll also receive guidance on the additional steps to take and kick the habit for good.
If you’ve been looking for solutions for the constant aches and pains, constant stress, and irritability resulting from bruxism, it’s time to get help. Contact Dr. Jennifer Silver at Macleod Trail Dental and ask about using night guards. You can schedule an appointment by calling us at this number: (403) 253-1248. We also have associates who can answer any queries you may have. Would you prefer to have us call you? Please enter your details in the form on the Contact Us page. We’ll get back to you soon!