Everything you need to know about bruxism and night guards

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Bruxism is a fairly common problem in both kids and adults alike. If you wake up feeling sore, especially in your jaw, and never seem to understand what’s causing this pain, worry no more. We know what’s causing the problem, and we’re here to help you alleviate your symptoms and cure the pain!

If you’ve been experiencing regular headaches, jaw pain, ear pain, and neck pain, and your doctor has ruled out all other problems, chances are you’re probably suffering from bruxism.

Bruxism is a condition characterized by the grinding, gnawing, or clenching of teeth. You may have developed a habit of grinding your teeth while you’re awake and conscious or unknowingly be doing it in your sleep. Regardless of when you do it, this condition can cause a vast array of problems that can cause extreme discomfort and pain. Some of these are listed below:

  • Headaches (dull pain that starts from the temples)
  • Tooth abrasion, leading to tooth pain and sensitivity
  • Facial pain
  • Ear pain (though there is no ear problem)
  • Tense facial and jaw muscles
  • Sore jaw and facial muscles
  • Damage on the inside of your cheeks (from chewing too hard)
  • Clicking or popping sounds when you open or close your mouth
  • Loose teeth (due to too much force exerted on them while grinding)
  • Gum recession

Here’s the answer to why you wake up with sore jaw and face muscles: the regular clenching or grinding of teeth tends to overwork your jaw muscles and stresses them to the degree that invariably results in muscle tenderness and pain. If left unaddressed, it can cause so much damage that it can completely wreck your teeth, restorations, and TMJ, cause infection, and even damage the tooth nerve!

Now here’s the solution to your problem: a night guard

If you’re experiencing similar pains, call us today at (303)-755-4500 (Aurora) or (303)-795-5700 (Littleton) to book an appointment. Doctors Heller, Backman, and Thousand will be more than happy to assist you.

What are night guards?

Night guards are protective devices designed to be worn orally at night or during the day, depending on when you most commonly clench your teeth. It fits on your teeth the same way that an orthodontic retainer does. A night guard works by posing a barrier between your teeth, minimizing the damage to your teeth caused by strain from excessive grinding forces. A night guard basically functions as a cushion between your upper and lower teeth. This helps to reduce tension on the jaw muscles, thus preventing not only jaw and facial pain, but also tooth abrasion (that could potentially damage your tooth enamel).

Who needs a night guard?

A night guard is recommended for both children and adults who have a habit of teeth grinding. They are also recommended for anyone participating in sports that might pose a risk of injury to the mouth (such as contact sports).

Types of night guards:

Night guards are generally classified into hard, dual/hybrid, and soft types. Your dentist will recommend one for you that’s best suitable to your needs.

Soft night guards:

This is the type of night guard most commonly used. It is perfect for mild cases of bruxism in which people only clench, and don’t grind their teeth. Soft night guards provide a comfortable fit as they’re made of a softer, more flexible material. On the downside, they wear out faster and so need to be replaced more often. They will generally last you anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.

Dual/hybrid night guards:

These are ideal for people suffering from moderate cases of bruxism. They’re soft on the inside and hard on the outside, making them better able to withstand heavy forces than the soft type of night guard. It’s comparatively more difficult to get used to than the soft ones, but they’re longer-lasting and provide more protection. They may last for 1-3 years.

Hard night guards:

This type of night guard is reserved for people with severe cases of bruxism who usually also suffer from TMJ issues. They’re made out of acrylic and are hence very rigid and provide the most protection against teeth grinding. Though not as comfortable as soft night guards, they’re more likely to last longer as they’re not easily prone to wearing out. They can generally last anywhere from 2 to 5 years before replacement.

How to care for your night guard?

To care for your night guard, be sure to follow the instructions listed below:

  • Cleaning: Always keep your night guard clean to ensure that there is no transfer of bacteria into and out of your mouth. Rinse it before and after each use using cold water or a mouthwash. You can also clean it using soap and a toothbrush like you would clean a denture.
  • Storage: It is advisable to keep your night guard stored in a perforated box to permit air circulation and prevent it from damage. If it’s made of acrylic, always store it in fresh clean water.
  • Temperature: Protect the night guard from high temperatures (such as hot water, hot surfaces, or direct sunlight) to prevent distortion of its shape.
  • Inspect for signs of wear if you’ve been wearing it for a long time. If it has worn out and become loose, get it replaced.

Have it examined by your dentist at each dental visit to make sure that everything is okay!

How long do night guards last and when should I get mine replaced?

The longevity of a night guard depends on various factors, such as the intensity and frequency of your teeth grinding, the quality of your night guard, and how well you take care of it, to name a few. In general, however, they tend to last somewhere between 3 months to 6 years.

It is very important that know when to get it replaced so it can efficiently perform its function and protect your teeth. Here’s a list of some signs to look out for:

The night guard is loose and no longer fits your teeth

You begin to notice cracks, tears, or holes in the night guard

The night guard causes discomfort

You notice irritating sores in your mouth (caused by cracks in the night guard)

The best way to tell whether you need to throw your old ones out is by consulting a dentist. Your dentist will examine your night guard and your oral cavity to check the fit and decide whether you need a new one.

What can happen if you wear an ill-fitting night guard?

It is imperative for the good health of your teeth that you wear a night guard that fits perfectly well. If it’s a poor fit, there are a number of serious problems that can arise.

Shifting of teeth:

You might not believe it but an ill-fitting night guard can actually cause your teeth to shift. A night guard should be easy to wear and fit perfectly around your teeth without causing any discomfort. If you notice that you have to push it with force, and it hurts your teeth when you do, it’s a sign that the night guard is quite possibly a wrong fit. An ill-fitting night guard will exert uneven pressure on your teeth while clenching and grinding and consequently cause your teeth to shift.

Jaw misalignment:

An ill-fitting night guard can change the way you hold your jaw and thus lead to jaw malalignment over time. This can result in TMJ issues that can be very bothersome and difficult to treat.

To avoid these issues, it is best that you always opt for custom-made nightguards instead of going for ones that are available over the counter. Your dentist will have them made for you according to your fit and will also make any necessary adjustments for you to make sure they’re comfortable for you.

To find out more about bruxism and night guards, you can always get in touch with our super helpful doctors Heller, Beckman, and Thousand by calling us at (303)-755-4500 (Aurora) or (303)-795-5700 (Littleton).