If you are waking up with soreness in the muscles around your jaw, headaches, or notice that your teeth appear to be wearing down, you may be grinding your teeth while you sleep. Regardless of whether you are grinding your teeth at night during sleep or during your waking hours, this can result in discomfort and other dental problems. The medical term for grinding your teeth is bruxism. If it is severe and left untreated, bruxism can cause dental issues down the road. 

Through a series of questions, your dentist can determine the extent bruxism is affecting your jaw muscles and teeth. At Sninski & Schmitt, our team of dental professionals is experienced in the symptoms, possible causes, and treatments for bruxism. In this article, we cover reasons for grinding your teeth and possible treatments such as using a guard at night to protect your teeth and reduce muscle activity. 

What Causes Bruxism?

Oral health specialists agree that too much stress and certain personality types are causes of bruxism. Bruxism often affects people with nervous tension from anxiety, pain, frustration, or anger. It also affects people with aggressive, hurried, or overly competitive tendencies.

Daytime clenching is usually triggered by stress and tension. Nighttime grinding is sometimes related to hyperactivity, sleep apnea, and even acid reflux. Also, tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, and illicit drugs can increase teeth grinding.

Treatments for Bruxism

While there is no cure to completely stop teeth grinding, treatments can help lessen the severity, decrease the impact, and relieve symptoms. Not everyone with sleep bruxism needs treatment. But, if you have frequent symptoms of morning headaches and jaw pain or are at risk for long-term damage to teeth, there are a number of treatment options you can consider.

Depending on your specific symptoms and stressors, a dental and/or medical professional may take these approaches:

  • Medication – Muscle relaxers can help relax the jaw and stop nighttime grinding. Additionally, you may benefit from antidepressants to help cope with the stressors that cause you to grind your teeth.
  • Behavioral Strategies – Psychologists work with patients to identify triggers and address them through stress management and relaxation training. Some patients benefit from biofeedback to monitor muscle tension and to demonstrate the relaxing effects of calming techniques.
  • Mouth GuardsDental mouth guards are specifically designed for patients with a variety of conditions, including bruxism. This is one of the most frequently used treatments.

Mouth Guards

There are several types of night guards used to address bruxism. Ideally, a dentist can create a custom night guard that fits you.

Stock Mouth Protectors

Stock mouth protectors are the least expensive type of mouth guard. You can find these in drug stores and sporting goods stores. If you are looking for something you can access easily and quickly, these will suffice. These are not optimum solutions for you in the long term because they come in general sizes and are not customized to your mouth. They will not have the perfect fit that is necessary for treating bruxism and should only be used as a temporary solution.

Boil and Bite Mouth Guards

These guards are generally available at drug and grocery stores. They are made of thermoplastic material, allowing them to be boiled in order to soften the material. After one of these guards is softened, you can bite on it and change the shape to fit your mouth.

Custom-Fitted Night Guard

The custom-fitted guard is the type recommended by dental professionals. These guards are made by a specialist after taking an impression of your teeth. The guard is molded over the impression using a special material. A custom-fitted night guard is the most expensive but offers the most comfort and protection.

Tips for Learning to Sleep with a Night Guard

Getting a restful night’s sleep while wearing a mouth guard may seem difficult at first. As with anything that changes our regular routine and habits, there will be some initial period of transition. Expect there to be an adjustment in dealing with some mild discomfort and inconvenience.

Here are some tips for easing into sleeping with a night guard.

  1. Place the night guard in position 30 minutes before laying down.
  2. Wear it while you are reading in bed, watching television, or stretching prior to falling asleep.
  3. Wearing the night guard longer before sleeping helps your mouth adjust to it. 
  4. Expect to have excess saliva during your sleep. Your body’s instinct to produce saliva is increased when there is something in your mouth. It typically takes about two weeks to adjust.
  5. You may wake up with your mouth feeling dry due to a greater exchange of air within the mouth and throat. More than likely, this will also go away in less than two weeks.

Taking Care of Your Night Guard

Keeping your night guard clean is essential in being comfortable wearing it. Rinse it in cold water and scrub it with your toothbrush each day. It isn’t necessary to use toothpaste.

Here are some pieces of advice for cleaning and taking care of your appliance:

  • Don’t put it in hot water, the microwave, or the dishwasher. Heat can cause the material to warp.
  • Don’t use alcohol to disinfect your mouth guard. Even mouthwash will degrade the material over time.
  • To disinfect the night guard, use a cup of water with a teaspoon of bleach to soak it for five minutes. Then rinse it with cold water.
  • Keep it in your mouth all night. Don’t take it out and put it back in multiple times.
  • Replace your guard as recommended. Factors such as your upkeep and maintenance, dental health issues, and the quality of the material affect lifespan.

Contact Your Dental Team at Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry

If you have a sore jaw or facial muscle consistently, you may be grinding your teeth at night or during the day. Contact us to diagnose your individual situation. Our professional, experienced team at Sninski & Schmitt either in Holly Springs or Cary can help you get relief. Call our Holly Springs dentist office at (919) 600-6262 and our Cary, NC dentist office at (919) 467-2203. Or, fill out our convenient, easy-to-use form to schedule an appointment.

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