Do you wake up with jaw pain each morning? Do you have frequent headaches after a restless night? Do your teeth seem more sensitive than normal? If the answer to any of these questions is a resounding yes, you may be experiencing the symptoms of teeth grinding at night. Once a dental provider confirms you are grinding your teeth during your sleep, you may be prescribed a night guard to prevent potentially serious dental complications.
Teeth Grinding 101
Teeth grinding, and teeth clenching, is a medical condition called bruxism. Chronic bruxism can cause long-term issues including chipped teeth and pitted molars. Unfortunately, most patients may not be aware of the problem since the grinding occurs during sleep. Teeth grinding and clenching are more likely to occur in certain populations. The following issues may increase your chances of grinding your teeth:
- Stress and anxiety
- Missing teeth
- Crooked teeth
- Sleep apnea
- Improper teeth alignment
- Neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease
Additional lifestyle factors may also attribute to a person’s likeliness to develop chronic bruxism. For instance, tobacco use, high caffeine intake and alcohol consumption have all been associated with teeth grinding. Certain medications like antidepressants are also known culprits for bruxism.
It is very common to not know you are grinding your teeth at night. Here are signs that you may be grinding or clenching your teeth during sleep:
- Frequent headaches
- Tightness or pain in jaw
- Chipped tooth
- Loose tooth
- Tooth sensitivity due to worn down enamel
Along with these signs, a partner may let you know that he or she hears you grinding your teeth at night. To confirm a diagnosis of bruxism and discuss treatment options including night guards, you should make an appointment with the Modern Family Dental Care team.
What You Need to Know About Night Guards
Night guards are mouthpieces that are worn during sleep to stop you from clenching or grinding your teeth. They are also known as occlusal guards or occlusal splints. The purpose of a night guard is to form a protective barrier between your top and bottom sets of teeth. Night guards are molded from plastic and are designed to adjust to your specific teeth shape. Night guards can be fitted for just your top teeth or your top and bottom teeth.
Two types of night guards are available as a treatment for bruxism: over-the-counter night guards and custom-made professional night guards. With the over-the-counter version, they use a “boil and bite” way to fit the device for your mouth. The night guard is made from thermoplastic materials and once the device has softened by boiling, you can use your mouth and hands to mold the plastic to the shape of your teeth. In comparison, a professional-grade night guard from a dentist is created by using custom molds of your teeth. A dentist can also adjust the fit of the night guard if you have any alignment issues. Although an over-the-counter version is less expensive, they may not fit your mouth properly and you could experience bouts of extreme discomfort. Moreover, custom night guards can last much longer than over-the-counter types—with patients able to use the device upwards of 10 years.
Benefits of Night Guards
The main benefit of a night guard is you are protecting your teeth from any damage related to bruxism. It is especially important to prevent teeth grinding if you have any dental work that may be affected such as crowns, dentures and fillings. Since bruxism is one of the top causes of root canals, the night guard will prevent future need for dental work. After wearing a night guard, patients also note less jaw pain and tightness. Patients will likely sleep better once the night guard is in place. The night guard will also alleviate any headache pain caused by teeth grinding.
Many patients are concerned that wearing a night guard causes discomfort and pain. With custom night guards, you will likely be surprised to find out just how comfortable they are. However, it may feel slightly awkward at first to wear the piece in your mouth. To get used to the mouthpiece, wear it for a couple hours before bedtime. After a few days, you will likely become accustomed to the feel of the night guard.
Many patients choose over-the-counter night guards because of the reduced cost when compared to custom types. However, the longevity of a custom night guard will likely save you money over time. Also, several dental insurance companies will provide benefits for night guards. A portion or all the cost will be covered if a dentist notes signs of visible wear on the teeth that can be attributed to bruxism.
Modern Family Dental Care can help prevent any further damage to your teeth caused by bruxism. Our caring and professional practitioners will examine your teeth and offer treatment options to address any issues found. Contact our office today to learn more about our practice. We serve patients in Charlotte, North Carolina and surrounding areas.