Do I Need a Night Guard?

night guards
Dental Exams and Night Guards

Your dentist can determine if you need a night guard with a simple dental exam to detect teeth grinding.

During an exam, your dentist will check muscles in and around your jaw. The doctor will test for tenderness or pain in the joint and muscles. Your dentist will also inspect your teeth for evidence of grinding such as chipped or cracked teeth and receding gums. X-rays may be required for both your teeth and jaw.

Exams also include questions about sleep habits, diet, medications and sources of stress. This will help your dentist determine causes behind teeth grinding.

Tooth pain or jaw soreness after waking up in the morning could be the first signs you suffer from bruxism – also called teeth grinding. Bruxism is a common dental condition. It affects a significant number of adults and children of all ages. Bruxism cannot be cured, but there are ways to reduce teeth grinding. One of the best methods for reducing bruxism is wearing a night guard when you sleep.

Night Guards Offer Protection

Wearing a night guard while sleeping helps prevent the surfaces of your teeth from grinding together. This can relieve tooth pain, relax jaw muscles, and reduce headaches that result from bruxism.

Since your upper and lower teeth move back and forth with serious force, grinding can wear down the enamel on your teeth over time. This is not simply a cosmetic issue. Worn down teeth can open the door to a host of other serious dental problems. Persistent teeth grinding causes increased tooth pain as nerves become exposed. Affected teeth can develop temperature sensitivity. Grinding can also cause cracked or chipped teeth over time. Without proper treatment, grinding will necessitate being fitted with crowns, bridges, or veneers. It can also lead to root canals and extractions in the worst cases.

Using a night guard can save you time and money when it comes to dental care. A night guard is available to purchase at most pharmacies, or you can choose to have a custom night guard fitted for your mouth by your dentist. Night guards made by your dentist are created based on impressions made from your mouth. This type of mouth guard is typically more expensive than ones purchased over-the-counter, but it feels more comfortable since it is created specifically for your mouth.

Other Teeth Grinding Treatments

Night guards are not the best solution for everyone. If wearing one causes too much discomfort, you can discuss other treatment options for teeth grinding with your dentist. For instance, straightening misaligned teeth with braces may help alleviate grinding. Misaligned teeth put stress on the jaw and can cause teeth to come in contact more than normal. Reducing stress through practicing daily relaxation exercises can also help you relax jaw muscles and stop clenching your jaw.

Changes in diet or medication may also do the trick. Caffeinated drinks and other stimulants can make your jaw muscles tense. Reducing your intake can make teeth grinding less frequent and less severe.

Sources:

Medline Plus, 2014. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001413.htm

Kids Health, 2014. http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/teeth/bruxism.html

Mouth Healthy, 2014. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/teeth-grinding 

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