Decades ago, reminding patients to brush their teeth twice daily and floss at least once daily seemed to be enough to help make sure people kept their natural teeth for most of their life.
But thanks to advancements in medicine, people are living longer lives; and thanks to advancements in dentistry, keeping a natural smile for life is no longer a privilege, but an expectation. Given that, there are some additional measures that may be taken to help ensure that your teeth live as long as you do.
One helpful dental remedy that may be necessary to prevent you from causing undue harm to your teeth is an occlusal guard, also referred to as a night guard.
A night guard is an appliance that can be worn by people who grind or clench their teeth while they sleep to help prevent damage to their teeth, muscles and jaw joints. Most people aren’t even aware that they are doing damage to their teeth, as they have no pain or symptoms. Some signs of grinding and clenching we commonly see are:
- Notches between the teeth and gums
- Fractured teeth or fillings
- Headaches and TMJ pain
- Tooth sensitivity to cold
The Harmful Effects of Grinding and Clenching
The chronic clenching and grinding of teeth is a condition we call bruxism. Grinding can cause teeth to become worn and flat, and can leave them sensitive to hot and cold foods and beverages due to the wearing away of the protective enamel. Excessive grinding has been known to cause cracked, broken and loose teeth.
“In addition to damaging your natural teeth, this harmful habit can damage restorations like fillings, porcelain crowns and dental veneers,” Tewksbury dentist Dr. Nitish Nahata says. “These restorations are quite strong, but they can’t always stand up to the forces of excessive grinding.”
Teeth grinding and clenching also puts an extra strain on the muscles, bones and cartilage that make up your temperomandibular joints (TMJ), and can both cause and worsen disorders involving them.
Finally, the harmful affects of grinding can alter your face shape. Your teeth support your cheeks and lips. When they become worn, broken or you lose them, that support structure is changed. As your teeth wear down, your upper and lower jaws move closer together, which can give you an aged appearance.
Our Treatment for Bruxism
A night guard is an ideal remedy for patients who have bruxism. We make a variety of night guards in our office—some are meant to simply cover and protect the teeth, some are designed to relax the jaw muscles, and some are even made to reduce snoring. After a thorough exam, we will discuss some options and recommendations so that you choose a night guard that is best for your needs.
A night guard is meant to lessen the forces created by teeth clenching and grinding. This is most effectively accomplished by getting a custom-fabricated guard with a particular set of properties that is accurately designed specifically for your mouth. Custom night guards reduce the amount of force you put on your teeth when you grind and clench them during sleep.
Store-bought night guards may provide a barrier to grinding, but they have no ability to control the forces. While they are often less expensive than custom made night guards, they likely won’t provide any relief to your jaw joints and muscles, and in some cases can increase tension in these areas.
Do you wake up from a night’s sleep with tired jaws? Are your back teeth extremely sensitive to cold foods and drinks? Have you noticed that your teeth appear blunter and shorter than they used to? These could be signs of teeth grinding and clenching. Please call today for an appointment so one of our dentists can evaluate you and offer treatment recommendations if necessary.