A nightguard is a mouthguard that you wear at night while sleeping that protects against damage & discomfort caused by teeth grinding or clenching.
Known as bruxism to dentists, teeth clenching & grinding is an unconscious behavior experienced by both children & adults. Because it often happens when you’re asleep, many patients are unaware that they have bruxism until they learn about the symptoms or the dentist notices damage.
Symptoms of teeth grinding & clenching include:
- Worn or cracked/broken teeth
- Jaw pain, neck pain, or even back muscle pain or tenderness
- Facial pain, earaches, headaches
- Higher sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet in teeth
- Sleeping difficulty
Bruxism is linked to stress, anxiety, abnormal bites & missing teeth, but the exact causes of it are not well understood. There is emerging evidence that it may also be linked to sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, but until there is more conclusive evidence, our best option is to prevent as much of the damage & side-effects of bruxism as we can.
Mild bruxism may not need treatment, especially in those patients who clench but don’t grind & don’t have any of the associated symptoms such as headaches or jaw pain. For those with more severe cases, the best therapy is a custom nightguard made by the dentist.
Nightguards are made from a soft plastic or rubber & fit over your upper teeth (or bottom teeth in some cases) to prevent your teeth from touching. The rubber material prevents tooth wear & also helps absorb & disperse the biting forces, thereby preventing jaw pain & headaches that might originate from clenching tension.
While there are over-the-counter nightguards available, we highly recommend custom nightguards. Here’s why: the pre-formed & boil-and-bite guards you find at the drugstore are not as durable or comfortable as custom nightguards. They’re more likely to impede speech or breathing, slip around or poke you in the gums. When a mouthguard is uncomfortable, you’re less likely to wear it, therefore you’ll be exposed to all the potential problems the nightguard is meant to prevent.
Custom nightguards are created from an exact model of your mouth that we make by taking a mold of your teeth. Once your nightguard has been fabricated, you’ll try it on for fit at our office & if anything doesn’t feel right we can have it adjusted until it’s comfortable.
We should note that some people unconsciously clench their teeth while they’re awake without being aware of it. Once the dentist has called attention to this habit, you may be able to break it, at least during your waking hours, because wearing a nightguard during the day is not feasible for most patients. Find a way to remind yourself to consciously relax your face & jaw muscles. When the jaw is relaxed your lips should be closed but your teeth apart (the biting surfaces of your back teeth should not be touching). We suggest setting reminders around your home or workplace, or on your mobile phone, to remind you to check whether you’re clenching.
If you suspect that you may be clenching in your sleep, let us know & we can check you for signs & symptoms. Even if you don’t have discomfort or pain, the dentist or hygienist may be able to tell that you clench based on the condition of your mouth. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
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