At Canyon Gate Dental, we are interested in helping you prevent dental problems before they occur. Although a very common condition, teeth grinding, or dental bruxism, can be an extremely damaging and costly habit. A night guard can help protect your teeth from damage.
One of the main causes of teeth grinding, or bruxism, is stress and anxiety. People deal with stress in different ways, and unfortunately, many people grind their teeth or clench their jaws. Clenching and grinding during the day can be a difficult habit to break, but with recognition and practice, it can be controlled. A much more difficult condition to control is night grinding. While sleeping, your brain remains very active and all the stress and anxiety you experience during the day can still take a toll; your subconscious mind still makes you grind and clench, even if you have the habit under control while you’re awake. Stress and anxiety aren’t the only causes of grinding; sleep disorders, an abnormal bite (even just a slightly abnormal bite), or jaw joint problems can also result in grinding.
Bruxism can result in a variety of symptoms. Worn teeth, Acute or dull headaches, jaw soreness, painful teeth and gums, broken dental work, and broken teeth are some of the most common symptoms we see in our office. Sometimes you may not even realize these symptoms are happening, and the problem can go undiagnosed and untreated for many years. Teeth grinding usually takes its toll insidiously and you’ll never realize you are a grinder until significant damage has already been done. Not infrequently, we see patients in our office whose teeth have been severely worn and are 2 mm+ shorter than they should be; when asked if they are teeth grinders, most of these people will deny the condition in spite of obvious evidences. Cases like these are very difficult to restore and may require full-mouth reconstruction (crowns on every tooth), which is not cheap.
A night guard is a plastic appliance that form-fits to teeth, usually only on the top or bottom teeth. Similar to an orthodontic retainer, it should be personalized, comfortable, and feel stable in the mouth. Patients who wear a night guard can still move their mouth at night, but the teeth are unable to make contact and grind against each other, and the jaw joints are prevented from generating the strongest clenching forces.
There are many kinds of night guards available. On the low end of quality and effectiveness are ‘boil-and-bite’ varieties available in drug stores or online sites. Sports mouth guards available in sporting goods stores can also be grouped in this category. Slightly better are online businesses which send you an impression kit that you use on yourself, mail-in, and then receive a more customized version of a night guard. Cheap night guards are usually bulky, ill-fitting, and hard to breath with, and online mail-in night guards do not allow important customization and adjustment to take place (not to mention, the night guard might not fit at all and these companies are not known for having good return/redo policies and track records). The overwhelming majority of our patients who have pursued these options have later come to us seeking a better option.
The best type of night guard available is obtained from a dental office; proper planning, design, and fabrication are done by the dental team in cooperation with a dental lab technician, and appropriate adjustments and customization can be made on the day the guard is delivered. Professional-made night guards are easily the most comfortable and effective tool against grinding, and in our office, the cost of such guards is incredibly low. Because of our philosophy of prevention, and the fact that a night guard takes little chair time for us and provides such a huge benefit to our patients who show signs of grinding and clenching, we have decided to make our night guards as inexpensive as possible at Canyon Gate Dental.
Like any problem, the first step to treating is diagnosis. In our Orem, Utah office, we perform a thorough examination at each cleaning appointment and search for dental problems such as cavities and grinding. In cases of severely worn teeth, like those mentioned above, a night guard cannot restore teeth, but it can at least prevent the problem from getting worse and alleviate many of the symptoms of grinding and clenching. For most of our patients, the damage is not yet severe and a night guard can prevent the more serious symptoms and damages of long-term grinding from happening down the road. The key is trusting your dentist when symptoms are not yet severe and having an attitude of prevention. If you or your dentist suspect you may be a grinder, this is an inexpensive preventive treatment that can save you thousands of dollars in restorative dental work.