Have you ever woken up with a headache or a stiff jaw?
You may be one of many people who have bruxism, which is the clenching and grinding of your teeth. Grinding is one of the most harmful things for your teeth, but unfortunately, you may not be aware that you do it!
The treatment for bruxism involves wearing a specialized night guard that will help prevent you from grinding your teeth. But what happens if you don’t wear that night guard?
All About Bruxism
No one chooses to grind their teeth. Bruxism is involuntary. It’s an instinctive reaction to stress, fear, and anger. Clenching your teeth when you’re awake is more common than doing so when you’re asleep. However, if you clench your teeth while you are asleep, you likely aren’t aware!
Our jaws are much stronger than we imagine. When you grind your teeth, you can employ up to 250 pounds of force – enough to do all sorts of damage to the teeth and jaw.
Symptoms of Bruxism
If it happens while you’re asleep, how do you know you have bruxism? There are a variety of symptoms that you may have if you are grinding your teeth at night. Some of the more common symptoms include:
- Headaches, earaches, or facial pain
- Waking up during the night
- Jaw pain or stiffness
Once you stop clenching your jaw, these symptoms start to go away. However, more serious symptoms can occur the longer bruxism goes untreated:
- Broken fillings or teeth
- Worn teeth leading to teeth sensitivity and pain
- Gum recession
- Teeth yellowing
- TMJ disorder
These symptoms occur in more severe cases, so it’s good to see your dentist as soon as you suspect you might be clenching your teeth.
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
It is commonly thought that bruxism is a result of stress and anxiety; however, it is more often a result of teeth not fitting together properly in your bite. The brain then tells the body to grind down the parts of the teeth that prevent the jaw from settling in comfortably. Often the stress and anxiety can worsen the grinding, but it is not the original cause.
Your lifestyle may also contribute to teeth grinding. Alcohol use, recreational drugs, caffeine, and smoking can all contribute to higher levels of bruxism.
Sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea may make you grind your teeth. If you sleep-talk, experience sleep paralysis, hallucinate or experience restless sleep, you may be at higher risk of developing bruxism.
How Do You Treat Bruxism?
If you suspect that your bruxism is caused by your lifestyle, quitting that habit may help you stop clenching or grinding. Anxiety or stress can be treated by attending therapy, using medications, or attempting to reduce your stress level.
However, if bruxism is occurring due to a misaligned jaw or TMJ, you will need orthodontic treatment.
The most common treatment for bruxism is an oral splint, or night guard. Dr. Stevens will take impressions of your teeth and send them to a lab. A few weeks later, you’ll receive your custom oral splint.
Do You Need a Night Guard For Teeth Grinding?
People who grind their teeth from time to time due to stress would benefit greatly from a night guard. However, someone with TMJ disorder may make their condition worse if they wear a night guard.
Alternative treatments may be possible, but you need to visit a dentist for an examination to be sure. Dr. Stevens will examine your jaw by taking measurements of the tension in your muscles, your jaw motion, and the sound of your joint. This information will allow her to determine if you need TMJ treatment.
Can I Buy One at the Store or Online?
While night guards are available in stores, that would be similar to buying reading glasses from the drugstore instead of getting your own prescription glasses. Store-bought night guards are not custom-fit to your teeth and are not as effective. For the best possible treatment options, you will need a dentist to help you.
What Happens If I Don’t Wear My Night Guard?
Not wearing your night guard means no relief of symptoms. You will experience the same headaches and facial pain, and could even end up with some of the worst symptoms on the list such as broken teeth and fillings. Wearing down your teeth is a permanent consequence; the more damage that occurs, the more dental work you’ll need to fix it.
If you think you may be clenching your teeth at night, contact Dr. Andrea Stevens in Kanata, ON today to schedule a consultation for