Why Would I Need a Mouth Guard?

Your dentist may recommend a mouth guard, also called an occlusal guard for many reasons. However, some of the most common reasons include grinding and clenching of teeth at night or during moments of stress. Teeth grinding and clenching can cause headaches, discomfort and teeth sensitivity as well as more serious dental problems like root canals and gum recession. This post will help you understand what some of the symptoms are of grinding and clenching your teeth, what it does in the short and long term to your teeth, and how you can stop it from happening.

How Do I Know if I’m Grinding My Teeth?

Headaches, jaw pain and toothaches are all signs of clenching or grinding your teeth (known as bruxism). Many people, over 20% of adults and 18% of children in fact, grind and clench during the day, and about half of those people also do it at night. At night, the force of the grinding is almost six times greater than during the day–almost 250 pounds of force per square inch.

As a result, even in the short term, you may experience sore jaw muscles, tooth sensitivity, gum recession, and even broken fillings. But perhaps you are attributing these symptoms to something else. Even if you do not realize you’re grinding your partner might have noticed (the sound of the teeth grinding can have the same effect that snoring does on your partner’s sleep!).

A dentist will be able to tell you definitively if you’re grinding and clenching because of the wear of your teeth. All that force from grinding has real effects on your teeth’s enamel, and even their shape. Enamel is the protective outer layer of your teeth–and it is how your teeth defend themselves against cavities and other forms of decay. Grinding also wears down your teeth over time, making them smaller, weaker, and more susceptible to problems.

What’s So Bad About Grinding?

In the short term, grinding is the culprit for headaches, sore jaw muscles, and cracked fillings and crowns. Because grinding and clenching causes your teeth to lose their enamel and to wear down, it can lead to much more serious dental problems down the road. Weakened teeth are more prone to fractures, which need to be corrected with a crown or veneer.

If a tooth that is cracked from grinding becomes infected, then a root canal would be needed. And with 250 pounds of force per square inch for over 40 minutes each hour that you sleep, those “long term” effects can come a lot sooner than you may think.

What to do about Bruxism

Fortunately, there are several options for bruxism. One major one is relaxation. A leading cause of grinding and clenching is stress, so it follows that reducing your stress level will ease the grinding. Techniques such as yoga, breathing exercises before bed, and limiting your caffeine intake can all contribute to less stress, and less grinding. However, it can be really challenging to lead a stress-free life. We are all going to have moments of stress. That is why dentists recommend night guards for patients who suffer from bruxism.

Night guards, also known as occlusal guards or mouth guards, are removable devices created to fit over your teeth, protecting them from grinding. Occlusal guards are typically worn at night, but can also be worn during moments of high stress (rush hour traffic, for example) when grinding is more likely to occur. The mouth guard protects your teeth and enamel from being worn down.

Mouth guards are made of acrylic, and can be washed with cold water and a toothbrush after use.

Another option that your dentist might recommend to help with bruxism is braces. If your teeth are not aligned properly, then force is not being distributed equally when you close your mouth. If you grind, then some areas are receiving a large, disproportionate amount of force, which can speed up deterioration or your teeth enamel, and the wearing down of your teeth. Once the orthodontic treatment is completed, you can opt for an acrylic retainer to wear at night, which works just like a night guard, and also keeps your teeth in the proper alignment.

Concerned about grinding? Let your dentist know during your next appointment, and have our trusted professionals diagnosis the issue and recommend the best treatment for you.