If you experience teeth grinding and clenching, you are not alone. It is estimated that 8% of the population suffers from sleep bruxism (Lavigne et al., 2008) and the related symptoms of facial pain, insomnia, and tooth damage. Because bruxism is caused by stress (Giraki et al., 2010), it can be very difficult to cure, and you may find yourself looking for a way to treat your symptoms rather than a full cure. To protect your teeth and reduce symptoms, most dentists suggest a custom night mouth guard.
The most obvious benefit of a teeth guard is the protection it will provide for your tooth enamel. Depending upon the severity of your bruxism you may wish to choose a soft rubber mouth guard--the best choice if you mostly just clench rather than grind--a hybrid laminate guard with a hard exterior and soft interior--your best choice for moderate grinding--and hard acrylic guards for heavy grinding. All of these guards provide a layer between your teeth which will prevent them grinding together and eroding your tooth enamel. When a night guard is ground down, usually over the course of one to five years, you can simply buy a new one. Teeth are not so replaceable.
Your teeth are composed of a layer of hard protective enamel covering a layer of dentin which protects the cluster of nerves and blood vessels at the heart of the tooth. Long-term untreated bruxism can erode your teeth through both the enamel and dentin to expose the pulp of nerves and vessels. Not only does this compromise the integrity of your teeth, but can also lead to intense pain.
In fact, if this level of erosion is reached, the tooth may have to be removed. Even if you are unable to stop your teeth grinding and clenching, wearing a simple dental night guard can prevent the destruction of your teeth and the resulting dentist bills.
Cushioning for Jaw Muscles
Waking up every morning with pain around the cheeks and jaw is usually a sign of clenching or grinding teeth. Your jaw muscles are very strong, able to exert a force of up to 1,300 Newtons, so it is no wonder they will hurt when they are allowed to clench tightly for an entire night's sleep. Soft rubber or dual laminate mouth guards provide a layer of cushioning between the upper and lower teeth protecting the jaw muscles from this extreme tension.
Though custom dental night guards are thin and comfortable, they still provide enough cushioning to not only protect tooth enamel, but also to support your jaw and prevent the discomfort of daily facial pain.
Beyond preventing symptoms when bruxism occurs, custom mouth guards may also help to reduce the frequency of your teeth grinding and clenching. Researchers have found that wearing a custom night guard can reduce the frequency and intensity of grinding sessions (Madani et al., 2013). Combined with relaxation techniques, wearing a custom night mouth guard provides the best chance to not only reduce your symptoms but also to decrease the frequency and intensity of teeth grinding episodes.
Unlike the bulkier generic sports mouth guards which may damage tooth alignment, custom dental night guards may even improve tooth alignment.
Custom dental guards are not only effective for sleep bruxism. If you find yourself clenching and grinding during the day, you are not alone. An estimated 20% of the population experiences awake bruxism (Lavigne et al., 2008). If you are experiencing pain or tooth damage from your daytime bruxism, you may want to try a thin, discrete daytime teeth guard. Without affecting speech or comfort, a thin day-time guard still provides protection for your tooth enamel when you cannot help clenching or grinding.
Your Custom Dental Night Guard
When a dentist proscribes a night guard for your bruxism, they will usually suggest a custom guard costing anywhere from $300-$500. To protect your teeth and jaws, the cost might seem worthwhile, but it isn't necessary. Online dental clinics like Proteethguard.com can give you an equally effective and significantly less expensive option. Just as your dentist would take a mold of your teeth to make a guard, an online clinic will provide you with a simple do-it-yourself bite kit to make the same mold. All you have to do is bite down on the impression block and send it back to the clinic which will then create the mould and the tooth guard, perfectly fitted to your teeth, all for less than $200.
Depending upon the thickness of the guard and the material it is made of, an individual guard will provide protection for at least 6 months, and as long as 5 years. For as long as the guard is worn, your teeth are protected and you will find yourself finally freed from nagging jaw and facial pain.
Though there is no easy cure for bruxism, you can protect yourself from the symptoms. Wearing a custom dental night guard provides a tough protective layer between you teeth which prevents destruction of your irreplaceable tooth enamel while also cushioning your jaws to ease daily facial muscle pain. Custom mouth guards may also be the first step towards less frequent and less intense episodes of teeth grinding and clenching, while also helping to correct tooth alignment. Even daytime grinding can be eased by wearing a thin flexible daytime guard.
Giraki, M., Schneider, C., Shäfer, R., Singh, P., Franz, M., Raab, W.H.M., Ommerborn, M.A. (2010). Head & Face Medicine, 6(2). http://www.head-face-med.com/content/6/1/2.
Lavigne, G.J., Khoury, S., Abe, S., Yamaguchi, Y., Raphael, K. (2008). Bruxism physiology and pahtology: An overview for clinicians. Journal of Oral Rehabilitation, 35, 476-494.
Madani, A.S., Abdollahian, E., Khiavi, H.A., Radvar, M., Foroughipur, M., Asadpour, H., Hasanzadeh, N. (2013). The efficacy of gabapentin versus stabilization splint in management of sleep bruxism. Journal of Prosthodontics, 22, 126-131.