Grinding and clenching one’s teeth while asleep is a very common experience that affects many people, known to doctors and dentists as bruxism. Those who experience bruxism often don’t even realize they’re affected until they are alerted by their partner or dentist.

A night guard is a plastic or silicone dental appliance that fits over the upper or lower teeth, so that much of the force made by grinding or clenching is absorbed by the night guard rather than the teeth.

A Closer Look at Bruxism

Grinding refers to the moving back and forth of the jaw, while clenching is biting down with excessive force for long periods of time. The grinding and clenching of teeth overnight is not uncommon, and can be attributed to certain factors that increase a person’s chances of developing bruxism, including:

  • Age: Young children are most likely to experience bruxism
  • Personality: Individuals who exhibit aggression, hyperactivity, or a competitive nature are more prone to bruxism
  • Stress: Many people unconsciously grind their teeth when experiencing high levels of stress or intense emotions like anger or frustration
  • Substances: Certain psychiatric medications, tobacco use, and the consumption of alcohol and caffeine can contribute to bruxism
    Other health conditions: Other conditions such as Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and ADHD are associated with bruxism.

Bruxism is a common condition that occurs naturally, however over time it has the potential to cause harmful effects to your mouth and body, such as:

  • Extensive damage to the structure and enamel of the teeth
  • Irritated or sensitive gums
  • Discomfort or pain along the jaw and cheekbones
  • Headaches
  • Ear pain
  • Popping or locking of the jaw.

Thankfully, bruxism and related afflictions don’t have to derail your life. Lifestyle changes can make a big difference, and night guards are a very effective and inexpensive method for protecting the teeth from unconscious grinding and clenching! Let’s take a look at some of the options for those affected by bruxism.

How to Combat the Effects of Bruxism

Some lifestyle changes may have the power to prevent grinding or clenching while sleeping. Since stress is a frequent cause of bruxism, stress management techniques are sometimes enough to avoid the damage caused by tooth grinding, including:

  • Stopping smoking, especially before bed
  • Limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption
  • Using relaxation techniques such as gentle music, a warm bath, or meditation to relieve stress before bed.

When these changes are not enough, a night guard is a wonderful solution. The soft material of the mouth guard absorbs the forces produced by grinding and clenching, so that your teeth don’t suffer!

Choosing the Right Night Guard

You have several options to choose from when deciding on a nighttime mouth guard. There are various over the counter (OTC) night guards available at drug stores, some of which are pre-molded, and others can be softened in hot water to better mold to the shape of your teeth. While OTC night guards are effective in a pinch, dentists don’t recommend them for long term use. Wearing a generic night guard that is not a custom fit can actually cause additional damage, shifting your bite over time and adding strain to your teeth.

Instead, getting a customized night guard through your dentist is the optimal choice. Your dentist will create a night guard formed to your specific individual bite, made in a lab with the help of high-resolution imaging and impressions of the teeth. These custom night guards are safer, more comfortable and more durable than OTC options, often lasting years with proper care.

If you think you may grind your teeth or you’re unsure whether a night guard is the right solution for you, please reach out to us at Pickwick Dental for help. Our expert team is here to guide you and help you to maintain your dental and oral health!