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Posted on: October 27, 2020
Are Cracked Teeth on the Rise?
A recent article in The New York Times focused on an unanticipated side effect of the coronavirus pandemic. After noticing an increase in patients complaining of migraines, jaw pain and tooth sensitivity during the early days of the shutdown, one dentist also reported an alarming number of tooth fractures as a result of teeth clenching and grinding since the practice reopened. This clenching and grinding, also known as bruxism, can be caused by not only stress and anxiety, but also poor posture and lack of sleep—things that have become more common as people work from home.
What Is Bruxism?
Bruxism is the medical term for grinding or clenching your teeth and jaws. Grinding refers to moving the jaw back and forth. Clenching refers to biting down with excessive force for long periods of time. Bruxism is a common condition and normally occurs during sleep or times of stress. Many people do not even know that they grind their teeth in their sleep until they are told by their sleep partner or dentist.
Over time, grinding teeth in sleep causes extensive damage to the structure and enamel of the teeth, which can lead to decay and increased sensitivity. It can also cause headaches, disrupt your sleep, and cause pain in the jaw, face, and neck.
Factors that may increase your chances of developing bruxism include:
- Age: Bruxism is most common in young children.
- Personality Type: Individuals who are naturally competitive, aggressive, or hyperactive are more likely to experience bruxism.
- Intense Emotions: Many people unconsciously grind their teeth when under intense stress or when they feel angry or frustrated.
- Certain Medications and Substances: Tobacco use, drinking caffeine or alcohol, and certain psychiatric medications can increase your risk of bruxism.
- Other Health Conditions: Bruxism is often associated with other conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, sleep apnea, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
How Can I Stop Clenching My Teeth During the Day?
The exact cause of bruxism is not clear, but it may be caused by a combination of genetic, physical, and psychological factors. Daytime bruxism may be associated with intense emotions, such as stress, anger, anxiety, frustration, or tension. Whether you experience bruxism at night, during the day, or both, there are steps that you can take to lessen or prevent teeth clenching and grinding:
- Stop smoking, especially before going to bed.
- Limit your consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
- Use relaxation techniques when stressed and before bed, such as listening to gentle music, taking a hot bath, going for a walk, or meditating.
How Can We Help?
Have you been told that you grind your teeth in your sleep? Do you suffer from chronic headaches or jaw pain because you clench your teeth? If so, a custom night guard might be the answer. Wearing a mouth guard for jaw clenching and teeth grinding can help protect your teeth from excessive wear and provide relief from temporomandibular joint pain. Schedule a consultation today with one of our dental professionals to find out if a hard night guard is the right bruxism or TMJ syndrome treatment for you.
What Is a Custom Night Guard?
An oral night guard looks similar to the trays used for teeth whitening and sits over the teeth to protect them from grinding or clenching. The device may also be referred to as an occlusal splint, occlusal guard, or bite splint. A teeth protector for sleeping does not actually stop you from clenching or grinding your teeth; however, it does shield and cushion the teeth from excessive wear and helps re-establish the natural space between the upper and lower teeth.
Why Do People Wear a Teeth Protector for Sleeping?
Your dentist may recommend a night guard to help you with morning headaches, for TMJ jaw pain relief, and to prevent damage to your teeth, jaw, crowns, and other dental restorations.
What Is Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome?
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome refers to problems affecting the function of the muscles of the jaw or the temporomandibular joint that connects the jaw to the skull. Injuries to the jaw and bruxism are common causes of temporomandibular joint syndrome. Symptoms include:
- Pain or tenderness in the face, jaw, neck, shoulders, or around the ear
- Difficulty chewing or opening the mouth wide
- A popping or clicking sound when you open or close your mouth
- A jaw that seems to get stuck or locked in a position
- Swelling on the side of the face
- A sudden uncomfortable bite
Can a Bruxism Mouth Guard Provide TMJ Jaw Pain Relief?
Although a night guard is not the only treatment for bruxism or temporomandibular joint pain, it is an affordable, convenient, and non-invasive treatment option. A properly fitted night guard shifts the jaw and teeth into proper alignment, which can alleviate jaw tension, headaches, pain, and other symptoms of temporomandibular joint syndrome.
Why Is It Important to Get a Mouth Guard for Jaw Clenching?
Ignoring your bruxism symptoms can lead to serious dental issues requiring expensive treatments. For example, bruxism is a leading cause of root canals. Individuals who grind their teeth can experience up to 2 millimeters of enamel erosion by their 20s, which increases the risk for cavities. Jaw clenching can subject the jaw and teeth to as much as 40 minutes of massive force per hour, which can set the stage for jaw and muscle pain.
Although it is possible to buy less expensive mouthguards online or at your local drug store, there are several reasons why it is worth the extra money to see a dental professional for a custom-fitted device:
- A custom-fitted night guard will ensure that your jaw is in proper alignment, which can help with TMJ jaw pain relief.
- A custom-fitted night guard will fit properly, which means that it will be more comfortable and won’t fall out during the night.
- Custom-fitted night guards are made from better materials than over-the-counter versions, so they typically last longer.
What Is the Process for Getting a Custom Night Guard?
The process for getting a teeth protector for sleeping is simple and painless. The dentist takes an impression of your teeth. The impression is used to create the mold that the lab will use to fabricate your night guard out of durable plastic. Once finished, the dentist will check the guard to ensure that it fits properly. Then all you have to do is wear the guard as you sleep. It may feel a little odd at first, but most of our patients get used to wearing their night guard quite quickly. The guard will not interfere with your breathing, and you will still be able to speak normally. Most people who complain about their mouth guard being uncomfortable are either wearing an over-the-counter device or one that was not fitted properly.
How Much Does a Bruxism Mouth Guard Cost?
The cost of a custom night guard will vary based on the materials used and the exact specifications of the appliance. In most cases, the cost of a teeth protector for sleeping is far less than veneers, crowns, root canals, or other treatments used to correct the damage caused by the grinding and clenching. If your dentist decides that a hard night guard is the right bruxism or TMJ syndrome treatment for you, we will provide you with an estimate of your cost. If you have dental insurance, all or part of the cost may be covered.
At Baystate Dental, we strive to make your visit as comfortable and stress-free as possible. If you are experiencing tooth damage, jaw pain, or other symptoms of bruxism, call today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced dentists. If your dentist determines that your issues are caused by teeth grinding or clenching, we will help you find the right night guard or bruxism treatment for you.