Grinding or clenching of the teeth is known as bruxism and is a very common condition. In fact, it is estimated that up to forty million people in the U.S. are affected by it. Those who clench or grind their teeth may experience facial pain or soreness, headaches, contractions of the jaw muscles, swelling around the jaw, grinding noises at night, and general fatigue due to sleep disruption.
Bruxism often occurs while sleeping and may be caused by an abnormal bite, anxiety and stress, a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, or even crooked or missing teeth. The grinding and clenching can cause teeth to become worn and lose their enamel, leading to tooth sensitivity, cracked teeth and tooth loss.
In order to protect teeth from the effects of grinding and clenching at night, the dentist may suggest an occlusal guard, also known as a night guard. This dental device fits over the teeth and creates a barrier between the upper and lower teeth, preventing wear on the tooth enamel.
Different guards are available depending on the severity of the bruxism, which the dentist can determine during an examination. Each guard is individualized by making a mold of the teeth to ensure a snug fit. After the occlusal guard is created, it is worn while sleeping and removed upon waking. Although initially it may take a little time to get used to wearing a guard, typically patients become comfortable wearing it within a very short period of time, experiencing a more restful sleep and freedom from sore or painful days.
It is vital that your occlusal guard be kept clean daily as bacteria can quickly accumulate. However, simply brush it with a soft toothbrush and toothpaste and then rinse it with cool water before and after wearing. Moreover, storing it in a clean container when not in use can keep it protected.
If you are grinding or clenching your teeth at night and would like to find out if an occlusal guard can help you get a good night’s rest, be pain-free and keep your teeth strong and healthy, Dr. Heidi Finkelstein and her caring staff at My Plantation Dentist can help. To schedule your appointment, please contact us today at 954-584-1030.