Did you know that grinding your teeth while sleeping can cause significant jaw pain, tension headaches, and even broken or cracked teeth? A condition known as bruxism, this nighttime grinding movement of the teeth can often go unnoticed and untreated for some time. When someone grinds their teeth, it wears down the teeth, can destroy tooth enamel, and can chip or crack teeth. Once the enamel on teeth has been destroyed or worn away, it cannot be replaced.
One of the most common disorders that happens as a result of teeth grinding is called TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder. TMJ disorder often causes chronic facial, jaw, and neck pain, leading to headaches. Bruxism also causes damaged and cracked teeth, and can lead to sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia, which can severely compromise someone’s overall health. This grinding of the teeth often happens involuntarily and unintentionally. During a routine exam, your dentist or dental hygienist may notice signs of wear and tear associated with bruxism, and you may also be experiencing symptoms such as tension headaches or a sore jaw.
Therefore, if you or your dentist are concerned about the damaging effects of grinding teeth while sleeping, your dentist can prescribe an oral appliance known as a night guard. This custom-fitted mouth guard is the most safe and effective way to preserve and protect your teeth. This protective device separates your top and bottom teeth from one another, and also prevents you from severely shifting your jaw while you sleep.
In addition to protecting the teeth from grinding, a night guard can also correct bite and jaw placement, bringing the bottom jaw forward, loosening tight jaw muscles, and reducing pain in the neck, head, jaw, and facial muscles. Evidence also shows a connection between obstructive sleep apnea and teeth grinding during sleep, and dental appliance/night guards have also been proven to help in addition to a CPAP machine. The main goal of a night guard for both your dentist and doctor is to help reduce the grinding of your teeth, and promote uninterrupted breathing.
When your dentist has determined that a mouth guard is right for you, they will custom fit it to address your specific dental needs. Molds of your teeth will be taken, and then sent to a lab to create your mouth guard. They are often made of hard durable plastic for both your top and bottom rows of teeth, depending on what you both decide is comfortable and right.