Bruxism is the medical term for unconscious and uncontrolled grinding of teeth. This can occur during waking hours or while sleeping. Sleep bruxism can actually be so severe that it wakes or disrupts the sleep of the person grinding their teeth, who is referred to as a bruxer. Even if the sound or sensation of teeth grinding doesn’t immediately disturb a nighttime bruxer, long-term damage to the teeth and jaws can occur. Bruxism can be treated with a variety of approaches. In the near term, someone with bruxism should immediately try to mitigate potential damage to their teeth with a mouth guard or night guard. A mouth guard for teeth grinding is a means of both protecting the tooth surfaces and as an actual treatment for bruxism.
Protecting your teeth
On the most basic level, a mouth guard for teeth grinding is simply a way to protect teeth from themselves. The enamel, or outer coating, of a tooth is actually the hardest material our body produces. During normal usage, this allows us to chew through tough foods. Unfortunately, this also means that when teeth chew against teeth, the result can be damaged, chipped, and worn teeth.
A mouth guard for teeth grinding provides a softer surface for the teeth to grind on, protecting the underlying teeth. On top of that, the presence of the mouth guard itself seems to actually reduce bruxing. The reasons behind why this occurs aren’t very well understood. It has been theorized that the brain has to spend time adjusting control of the jaw muscles responsible for bruxism when a mouth guard is in place.
Special sleeping equipment
Mouth guards fall under the category of oral appliances, the medical name for night guards, mouth guards, and more specialized devices such as mandibular advancement splints.
A mouth guard for teeth grinding isn’t the same as the simple mouth guards used in sports or other activities. A nighttime oral appliance needs to be designed by someone with skilled anatomical knowledge. It isn’t enough to simply match the shape of the teeth; care must be taken to not introduce unnatural or unhealthy strain on the jaws.
Bruxism mouth guards aren’t the only type of sleeping equipment that is worn over the teeth overnight. A mandibular advancement splint slips over the teeth like a mouth guard, but instead of being simple plastic trays, the upper and bottom tray are attached by a rubber band or spring. This draws the lower jaw forwards and has been found to be effective at treating snoring and sleep apnea.
Do mouthguards help with teeth grinding?
Mouthguards or night guards help with bruxism in two ways. The first way is by protecting the teeth from damage during the night. The second way is by actually tiring the jaw muscles out.
Is bruxism curable?
Bruxism can spontaneously resolve itself, and some cases do simply go away on their own. However, it isn’t a good idea to just wait for bruxism to go away on its own, as the damage to teeth and joints because of teeth grinding may be permanent. Mitigating the damage that teeth grinding causes should be the first step taken, and attempting to treat the underlying risk factors should follow.
Can night guards change your bite?
Possibly. Because of the sheer amount of time a night guard is worn when used daily, care should be taken to make sure a mouth or night guard is correctly fitted. Simple mouth guards for sports can be form-fitted simply by biting them after they have been warmed, but they should not be worn for long lengths of time. Night guards and mouth guards for teeth grinding are created by professionals that understand how the oral devices may affect someone’s bite. Ideally, if the goal is to protect teeth from grinding, the guard should not cause a shift in someone’s bite.
How can I tell if I clench my teeth at night?
The most obvious tell of clenching teeth at night is if someone witnesses the grinding. This is not always practical, so other signs of sleep bruxism can be used to determine whether or not someone is grinding teeth at night. Damaged, worn, or painful teeth can result from the strain of grinding the upper and lower jaws together. Ear, head, jaw, neck, and face soreness can also be bruxism symptoms. Sometimes bruxism involves the accidental chewing of the inside of the cheeks, which can lead to damage to the soft tissues.
Master Sources List for Teeth Grinding