Excessive clenching or grinding of the teeth will often lead to future problems for the teeth, jaws and mouth. Many people may be unaware that they are clenching or grinding their teeth, as it often occurs during sleeping hours.
Teeth grinding can be caused by a variety of factors:
- Sleep Disorders
- An abnormal bite from teeth that may be missing or out of proper alignment
Some signs and symptoms of excessive teeth grinding include:
- Dull headaches, particularly after waking up
- Jaw (Temporomandibular Joint) soreness or pain
- Wearing down, flattening or shortening of the teeth
- Teeth that are painful or loose
- Chronic temperature and biting sensitivity
- Notching of the teeth along the gum line
- Chipped or fractured teeth
- Chipped or fractured restorations
Below are a few different options to help avoid long term problems that can be associated with excessive grinding or clenching.
- Wearing a Night Guard is one of the most effective means of preventing damage to your teeth. Also known as Dental Splints or Occlusal Guards, a Night Guard is a thin piece of plastic that covers and protects the teeth.
- Meditation, counseling, exercise and other stress reducing measures are helpful in reducing anxiety and the major underlying causes of the problem.
- Muscle relaxants can be helpful on a short term basis, but may become habit forming or addicting if used repeatedly or for extended periods of time.
- Referral to a Physical Therapist with experience in the Temporomandibular Joint.
How does a Night Guard Work?
Night Guards work as a ‘shock absorber’ by distributing and stabilizing the forces of grinding and clenching. They prevent cracks and fractures in the teeth and fillings by protecting and minimizing occlusal forces and interferences. Night Guards also help treat TMJ Disorders by relaxing the jaw joints and ‘de-programming’ the muscles. This reduces excessive movement and force that wears down the joint, causing tight muscles, inflammation and damage.
Custom Made versus Store Bought Night Guards
Our office can fabricate a custom-made Mouth Guard to help protect your teeth and minimize future problems and damage to your teeth from clenching and grinding.
Store bought Night Guards are not custom fit. They often come in only two or three different sizes and are too large, too small, ill-fitting, loose or unattractive. They may also fall out during the grinding or clenching process.
Store bought Night Guards do not provide the best protection for your teeth and mouth on a long-term basis. The only time we recommend a store bought Night Guard for a patient is when they are trying to find out if they can tolerate wearing an appliance in their mouth for extended periods of time. It might be worthwhile to buy and try a less expensive store bought Night Guard, to make sure you can tolerate wearing an appliance before investing in a custom made Night Guard.
Why do custom night guards cost more than the store bought appliances?
Custom-made Night Guards require at least two separate appointments. The first appointment entails taking an impression of your teeth to make an appliance that fits securely and properly in your mouth. Then time is required in a laboratory to process, trim, polish and disinfect the appliance before it is fitted and adjusted in your mouth.
The custom-made Night Guard material is specially made to exactly fit the shape and contours of your teeth and bite. It’s made from a much stronger, more resilient, longer lasting material than store bought appliances. It is also more resistant to bacterial infiltration, stains and odors than over-the-counter appliances.
Once a patient becomes accustomed to wearing their Night Guard on a regular basis, they will experience a significant reduction in tooth wear and other accompanying symptoms associated with clenching and grinding.
Sources & Additional Resources
Academy of General Dentistry website & Oral Health Fact Sheets (www.agd.org)
American Dental Association website (www.ada.org)