Night Guards

"Bruxism" means grinding and/or clenching of teeth. It is considered a non-functional habit that can occur while awake or asleep. Grinding/clenching your teeth while asleep is more of a problem since most people will grind their teeth much harder than they ever would while awake.  Such "Nocturnal Bruxism" is a very common sleep behavior that many people will experience at some time in their lives. It often is more evident during times of personal stress.

    Important Note: Recent evidence indicates that use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI's Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, etc) can significantly increase bruxism.  We have seen this in our officewith some of our regular patients.

    A  nightguard  is the best treatment for bruxism. A night guard is a thin piece of hard plastic made from impressions of your teeth placed on the upper or lower teeth. The nightguard is hard enough to be durable, but since it is softer than teeth it will protect them from wear. When the nightguard is tried in, it is adjusted to fit your bite evenly and smoothly. This appointment may take a little time, but it is very important that the fit of the night guard be just right.

Bruxism is a problem if evidence of worn enamel exists and/or if painful jaw symptoms develop. One can grind their teeth so hard that significant amounts of tooth structure can be lost over time. This insidious destruction of enamel can be quite extensive, causing more loss of tooth structure than even severe tooth decay. Typically this happens with no awareness by the patient since there is no pain or visible cavities in the teeth. Nighttime clenching, more subtle than grinding, results in cracking and fracturing of back teeth. One major goal of a nightguard is to stop this destruction of tooth structure as soon as possible. Otherwise, the teeth affected would need extensive, costly dental work to be restored.

    Often nighttime bruxism is accompanied by pain in the jaw joint and/or muscles. A nightguard is one of the most important steps in relieving this problem, known as TMD (temporomandibular disorder). Even if no pain is present, wearing a nightguard may aid in preventing the development of this painful problem, and protect the jaw joints from excessive pressure that may lead to damage in them.

    You need to wear the nightguard each night (or even throughout the day) for it to work properly. It takes a few nights to get adjusted to, but becomes more comfortable the longer it is worn.