Do you often wake up with a sore jaw or headache? Do you have a bedmate who complains of hearing you grind your teeth? Have you been told that your teeth have wear by a dentist?
If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, you may clench or grind your teeth. Grinding your teeth is sometimes referred to as bruxism. Many people clench or grind their teeth while sleeping and are unaware of their habit unless it is symptomatic or they are told by a bedmate or dental professional. Over time, both clenching and grinding can be harmful to teeth. The forces we are able to exert with our jaws is very strong and can break and wear teeth down, break existing dental restorations, loosen teeth and can cause joint and muscle pain. Also, long term clenching and grinding can make teeth sensitive.
There are over-the-counter guards that can be purchased at drugstores, these provide protection and allow a person to see if they can tolerate having a device in their mouth while they sleep but are recommended for short term use. Many are made of a soft and pliable material that breaks down over time and can cause us to “chew” on it and actually strengthen our muscles. For long term bruxism, a hard custom-made guard is the best appliance and can be made by your dental professional. Impressions of your teeth are taken and a night guard is custom fit to your teeth.
For muscle pain associated with bruxism, anti-inflammatory medication can be taken along with a warm, wet compress applied to the facial muscles. Stress can increase clenching and grinding, so finding ways to de-stress such as listening to music, reading, a massage or yoga and exercise can also be beneficial.
For questions about clenching/grinding or to see if a custom night guard could help you, feel free to ask us here at Mill Creek Dental.