An estimated 15% of Americans, both children and adults, grind their teeth when they sleep. The grinding of teeth is known as Bruxism. It includes gnashing and clenching of the teeth as well. Most people who have Bruxism don’t know that they grind or clench during the day or night. People who suffer from Bruxism at night are also more prone to sleep conditions like snoring or apnea. Symptoms of Bruxism include, but are not limited to, jaw pain, tooth pain, headaches, ear pain and muscle pain around the jaw and ear.
Together, these symptoms are known as Temporomandibular Joint problem (or simply, TMJ).
The number one recommended treatment for Bruxism is with a dental guard. Dental guards are created from hard but pliable plastics that are custom made for your mouth by using a mold of your teeth to form the guard. Dental guards create a cushioning between the upper and lower set of teeth to absorb the grinding, gnashing, clenching or biting that you do in your sleep.
Most dental guards are comfortable to wear for long periods of time, do not cause discomfort and are easily cleaned. It should be noted that over wearing or guards that are not properly fitted can cause sores, tooth damage, gun damage, or other complications.
If your guard is not fitting properly, a new one should be made.
While a dental guard is intended to prevent damage to your teeth, it is not a cure all. For most people, there are underlying causes of Bruxism that need to be treated other than by seeing a dentist. Dental guards work best when accompanied by other treatments to help prevent the actual grinding and biting that occurs while you sleep. It is best to talk to your doctor in conjunction with your dentist to provide you with the best plan of care for your teeth and your TMJ complications.