Tooth grinding causes many dental problems if you’re part of the 25 percent of the population that experiences it. Most people with bruxism (tooth gnashing) don’t exhibit any immediate symptoms but show wear on their teeth and gum line that indicates the problem. Only 5 percent display painful symptoms, which vary from extreme headaches to ear, tooth or jaw pain. Many dentists recommend night guards for teeth grinding.
If you grind your teeth in the night, you may wake up with painful teeth or jaws. If there is no pain to alert you, your spouse may tell you that you grind because the noise keeps her awake or your dentist may notice signs during a dental exam. Doctors don’t agree on the origination of bruxism. Various theories link it to misalignment of the jaw, genetics, allergies or intake of caffeine, tobacco or amphetamines. Night guards prevent much of the pressure on the teeth.
Watch out for further damage. Tooth grinding often occurs in children. Sometimes bruxism goes away by the time children reach the age of 10, other times it becomes worse. The alignment of the permanent teeth dictates the difference. Those with serious malocclusion seem to be candidates for the problem. This occurs most of the time at night because it’s a subconscious neuromuscular disorder. Braces often prevent tooth grinding later in life.
Keep the TMJ joint in neutral position with a night guard fitted to your mouth. Night guards that are custom fit by dentists leave the temporomandibular joint in neutral position. The guard trains the joint to relax and relieves a lot of the pressure. These types of night guards for teeth grinding are usually the most expensive and cost several hundred dollars but often are the best method to control night grinding and clenching.
Try a mouthpiece. The mouthpieces that athletes use are a viable alternative for some people. They, however, can cause more disruptive sleep than problems with bruxism. Ill fitting mouthpieces can cause problems breathing and don’t really give the protection necessary for the teeth.
Use a boil and bite guard to protect your teeth. Again, many of these are available in the sporting goods area of stores. They are made of softer plastic that can be trimmed to fit your mouth. Once you boil the guard, it softens. You put it in your mouth and shape it appropriately. These guards fit on the upper teeth, and may block breathing and interrupt sleep patterns. They are, however, cheaper than custom guards made by dentists.
Investigate an over-the-counter soft plastic dental guard made to prevent night grinding. These fit on the lower teeth and avoid the problem of interrupted airflow and bulkiness. The front band winds around the front of the lower teeth and the cheeks keep the flat disc against the back of the teeth. An adjustable pad of plastic covers the bottom teeth to prevent grinding. You don’t boil these guards because the heat from your mouth allows them to conform to its shape. These guards typically cost under $80, although prices vary dramatically from store to store. See the link in the reference area for more information on this type of guard.