So, you’re suspicious that you’re grinding your teeth at night, your significant other has witnessed you doing it, or your dentist or other health professional is noticing potential side effects of teeth grinding. What comes next? You’ve heard of night guards but are wary of their effectiveness, cost, and benefits.
Before jumping into characteristics that make teeth guards your best option for combating teeth grinding, here’s what to know about your teeth grinding:
The human brain endures lighter and deeper stages of sleep. As it approaches deep sleep, the body releases control of different parts and organs of the body, including the jaw and tongue. The jaw becomes heavy, and the tongue can expand to almost twice its size, both blocking the airway and consequently making it difficult to breathe. Researchers have found that those who experience any blockage at night grind their teeth in order to reopen this airway.
This phenomenon presents an obvious problem — pain — but also has many other consequences. These complications include:
- Tooth stress fractures
- These most often appear within the earliest stages of teeth grinding and are most commonly seen on the molars. Many patients confuse the discoloration to be cavities, and without proper treatment, they lose sections of these teeth. When the severity has reached a certain level, only total tooth restoration can repair the teeth
- Excessive exertion from the upper and lower jaw
- As teeth become shortened, the upper and lower jaw have to compensate and come together with greater impact in order to chew. This exacerbates the initial issue
- Eroded enamel
- Constant clenching and grinding gradually erodes the teeth’s enamel, or the hard, glossy substance that covers the teeth
- Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Syndrome
- When excessive pressure on the jaw becomes habitual, patients often are consulted for TMJ Syndrome
Signs you’re grinding your teeth:
- Tenderness or pain in jaw muscles
- Hearing loss
- Ear ringing
- Periodical swelling
- Inflammation of salivary glands
- Abnormal dryness of mouth
What should you do if you suspect you’re grinding your teeth?
Whether your doctor has suggested a night guard or you’ve done some research on if it’s really necessary? If it is only intended to help clenching and grinding your teeth, why wouldn’t someone want one? The only reasons that hold people back from getting one are cost and comfort. Many fail to recognize, however, that wearing a night guard lessens your chances of having to get many other procedures , such as crowns, veneers, bridges, implants, extractions, and root canals, that are ultimately more expensive that investing in a night guard . . . not to mention that a guard prevents any other pain that result from these procedures.
Dental or other health professionals will likely recommend a night guard to protect your teeth from voluntary habits like clenching and grinding. Here are some facts to know about night guards when considering whether to invest:
- Function: act as a protective layer between your top and bottom teeth. Without it, your teeth can gradually lose its outer layer, also known as enamel. Once it’s gone, it can’t be replaced, which can lead to many other oral complications
- How’s it feel: breathing and speaking are done easily and normally. The only drawback is that you should take it out to eat and drink to keep it clean
- How will it help: with a night guard, you can finally sleep better, rid yourself of headaches, put a halt to jaw aches, and prevent damage to your teeth
- Cost: a night guard may cost a few hundred dollars if you are to get one from your dentist. However, this lasts a lifetime and prevents many other costly procedures. You also can invest in a night guard online that are much cheaper yet still effective.
What are some other suggestions for teeth grinding?
Although night guards remain your best option for ridding yourself of the damage to your teeth (as well as many other harmful, costly, and uncomfortable complications), there are other solutions that you should do in addition to (rather than only) wearing a guard at night. These include:
- Stop smoking
- Limit caffeine and alcohol consumption
- Include relaxation techniques into your routine before going to bed
- Reduce common life stresses