Using a Night Guard to Protect Your Smile
Written by Dr. DeAngelis
Sleep is supposed to be a restful, restorative time to recover from the day and prepare your brain and body to tackle the next. However, when you grind and clench your teeth- a condition known as bruxism- sleep becomes a time of pain and discomfort instead.
Teeth grinding is a serious issue that poses a threat to your dental health and overall comfort. Nobody wants to walk around with teeth grinding-induced migraines all day!
Fortunately, the answer is pretty simple: use a night guard to protect your smile and stop the consequences of bruxism. Here’s what you need to know about this dangerous habit and how you can stop it.
Why Does Teeth Grinding Occur?
If you have bruxism, you clench and grind your teeth while you sleep. You may not even know it happens, but you probably feel the side effects in the morning!
This nighttime gashing may be triggered by a few different causes, including stress, medical conditions, and existing dental problems.
Anxiety and Stress
It’s human nature to clench your muscles when you’re angry, stressed, or overwhelmed. Unfortunately, this causes you to clench and grind your teeth together as well. You might even realize there’s a correlation between the days you’re most stressed at work and the days you experience the worst symptoms.
So it’s no surprise to learn that research suggests that daytime stress and anxiety play a huge role in nighttime grinding. You’re more likely to clench your jaw and move it back and forth while you sleep if you’re consumed by worry and stress over issues relating to your finances, career, or relationships.
Antidepressants, antipsychotics, and amphetamines are all known to cause nighttime tooth grinding. If you’re using any medications that fall under those categories, they have the potential to cause this issue while you sleep. There are also neurological conditions like Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease that may cause uncontrollable gnashing behaviors.
Existing dental problems also makes grinding behavior even worse. Misalignment prevents your teeth from meeting correctly when the jaw opens and closes. This makes it more likely for clenching and gnashing to occur.
Signs and Symptoms of Nighttime Teeth Grinding
Nighttime tooth grinding is tricky to identify because it occurs when you’re completely unaware of the behavior. Since chronic clenching and grinding puts so much pressure on the muscles, tissues, teeth, and other structures around the jaw, symptoms can be felt long after the grinding stops and you get out of bed.
If you do grind your teeth while you sleep, you probably experience at least a handful of these symptoms during the day:
- Jaw pain and stiffness
- Sore gums
- Sensitive or broken teeth
- Clicking jaw joints
- Chronic dull headaches
- Flat, short, or blunt teeth surfaces
If you sleep in the same bed or room as another person, you can ask that person to listen for sounds of grinding overnight. The scraping sound of teeth grinding over each other is usually easy to identify.
The Damage Caused By Nighttime Teeth Grinding
Chewing food, talking, smiling, and feeling confident are all made possible by a full and healthy set of teeth.
Unfortunately, bruxism threatens the health of your teeth by wearing them down, sometimes to stumps. When your teeth become fractured, loose, or damaged, you may find yourself needing bridges, crowns, implants, or even dentures in order to save your mouth and reduce your pain.
TMJ: The Temporomandibular Joint
Bruxism can also cause TMD, or temporomandibular joint disorder. TMD is defined by damage and inflammation of the TMJ, or temporomandibular joint.
The TMJ is the hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bone. It’s responsible for helping your jaw smoothly move up, down, and side to side. When TMD develops, those simple movements become painful. Eventually yawning, chewing, and talking become extremely uncomfortable.
If you recognize any of these symptoms, TMD (and perhaps bruxism) could be the root cause:
- Pain and tenderness in the joint area
- Difficulty opening the mouth wide
- Clicking and popping in the jaw joint
- Trouble chewing
The signs of TMD can even extend beyond the mouth to impact the neck, shoulders, and ear areas. These symptoms often include pain radiating down the jaw and neck, earaches, hearing problems, and dizziness.
Preventing and Treating Bruxism and TMD
A dentist like Dr. DeAngelis at DeAngelis Family Dentistry is the most qualified professional to help you treat and prevent future nighttime teeth grinding. Dr. DeAngelis knows exactly how to stop teeth grinding with the simple, painless, non-invasive use of a mouth guard.
The soft inner layer of a night guard, also known as an occlusal guard, feels comfortable along the teeth and gums, while the hard, durable copolyester outer layer stops your teeth from its instinctive grinding and clenching behavior while you sleep. This type of strategic mouthguard design resolves the pain and damage caused by bruxism and TMD.
Certain lifestyle changes can also reduce the intensity of bruxism and TMD. In addition to your use a night guard, consider making these changes:
- Limit foods and beverages with caffeine and alcohol since they are known to cause tension, anxiety, and aggression that lead to teeth grinding and clenching
- Avoid chewing gum or biting on objects like pencils, pens, and nails.
- Decrease anxiety with essential oils, a relaxing bath, and stress management strategies
Get Relief From Bruxism and TMD With a Customized Night Guard
The intense pain caused by chronic bruxism and TMD threatens to diminish your entire quality of life and cause lasting damage to your teeth.
Dr. DeAngelis understands the severity of bruxism and TMD, and she has the expertise to treat your condition with a perfectly customized night guard.
The team at DeAngelis Family Dentistry in Carlsbad, CA is committed to helping you regain comfort throughout your mouth, jaw, and neck.
Call (760) 444-5507 today to schedule your first appointment and seek the relief you need!