Do I Need a Night Guard for Teeth Clenching?
It’s estimated that at least 10 to 15 percent of people grind or clench their teeth at night. And a lot of them are not aware that they are doing it. Many also don’t realize the wide-ranging effects this can have on various systems and areas of the body. Nor do they grasp the damage it causes to the very teeth they clench and grind while they sleep.
Fortunately, dentists do recognize the signs of grinding (or Bruxism), and are often the ones to tell these unaware grinders and clenchers that they are doing it. And many dentists will immediately recommend a dental night guard.
This will cushion the teeth that are being literally ground down to stubs during the night, or cracking or breaking under the pressure of clenching. And it may lessen the after-effects of bruxism like earache, headaches, pain and stiffness in the jaw, and a feeling that you haven’t slept well at all.
Choosing the Right Night Guard
Off-the-shelf mouth guards in standard sizes, and boil-and-bite options with a bit more flexibility in terms of size and shape, are freely available at stores. However, these don’t guarantee the same results as the purpose-made and custom-fitting night guards your dentist will prepare for you.
For one thing, these sport mouth guards are primarily aimed at protecting sportsmen’s teeth and gums from direct impact injury. They are made of a softer and thicker material to absorb that impact, and are designed to cover both the teeth and the gums, because both could be injured by a blow.
A dental night guard has a different purpose. Its function is more long-term and specific. It needs to cover the occlusal or chewing surfaces of the teeth in order to form a buffer between them all night and every night.
The dental night guard is therefore designed to cover only the teeth, and is usually made of a tougher material to last longer. It’s also designed to fit snugly, to avoid it coming off during the night. As the custom-made night guards available from your dentist are laboratory-created, and based on a mold of your teeth, they are most likely to fit better, be more comfortable, and stay in place longer.
What Causes and Stops Grinding and Clenching?
Bruxism remains a bit of a mystery. Traditionally, it was tied to anxiety and stress, certain lifestyle choices like alcohol consumption and smoking, or to poor tooth alignment and bite problems. And attempts to deal with it have revolved around those issues.
More recently, it has been linked to interrupted-breathing patterns during sleep, of the type associated with snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Some dentists and sleep experts are suggesting it happens because of the same narrowing of the airways during sleeping that brings on these sleep issues with their serious health consequences.
This has led to the belief in certain areas that dealing with the narrowing of the airways is the best way to treat the grinding. And, on the other hand, given rise to the idea that grinding could be seen as a diagnostic warning sign of sleep apnea which might up the number of people who seek treatment for this sleep disorder.
Consult your dentist if you are experiencing any of the signs that could indicate you are grinding or clenching your teeth. He or she will guide you in protecting you and your teeth you from the damage and unpleasant side effects this habit can have.