During routine check-ups at My Family Dentistry, we often spot the telltale signs of nighttime teeth grinding, called bruxism. Chronic grinding can cause your teeth to become worn down, loose, or cracked. In some cases, crowns and other dental work may be damaged, and your gums may begin receding. Grinding can also contribute to headaches and jaw pain, and can even lead to more serious problems.
Many people feel helpless once they find out they grind their teeth at night. After all, it happens while you sleep, so it’s hard to control. You may need a night guard for teeth grinding. But in the meantime, here’s what you need to know so you can take action to prevent further damage or even completely stop the habit.
What causes teeth grinding?
Like grinding during the day, teeth grinding at night often stems from stress and anxiety—but there are a variety of other causes, too. Your dentist can help you determine the source of your bruxism and choose the best course of action to take moving forward.
The most common causes of teeth grinding are:
- Stress and anxiety
Mental stress often manifests as physical problems. Grinding your teeth while you sleep is one of many ways that stress causes damage.
- Sleep disorders
Patients with sleep apnea or chronic sleep deprivation carry an increased risk for teeth grinding problems.
Certain antidepressants have been linked to teeth grinding at night.
Teeth grinding is often found among those with ADHD and other common disorders.
- Misaligned teeth
Crooked teeth, overbite, underbite, and other dental problems can cause discomfort that leads to grinding. Wearing a night guard for teeth grinding can help to protect your smile from damage.
These are just some of the potential causes for teeth grinding at night. Whether you’re experiencing one, all, or none of these symptoms, if you notice any sort of unexplained damage to your teeth (or a loved one says that you grind your teeth at night), book an appointment with your dentist immediately.
What is a night guard?
A night guard is a device placed in the mouth over the teeth— a bit like a plastic retainer—to help with grinding and clenching. The guard acts as a protective layer between your top and bottom teeth. It doesn’t stop the grinding, but it helps protect your teeth from the possible side effects, including wear and tear, chips, cracks, and straining of the jaw muscles.
Like retainers, night guards can be custom-fitted, so you can sleep comfortably and better prevent damage to your teeth at night. They generally cover your upper teeth only, but in some instances (if you wear braces, for example), your dentist will make a guard for the lower teeth as well. Your dentist is the only person who can suggest the best night guard for you, but an effective one should be comfortable, durable, easy to clean, and should not restrict your breathing or speech.
Do you need a night guard for teeth grinding?
That depends on the severity of your teeth grinding, but generally the answer is yes.
When you grind your teeth, you are wearing away your their protective outer layer, called enamel. Once your enamel is gone, it cannot be replaced, and loss of enamel can lead to oral health issues such as cavities and serious tooth decay.
In addition, regularly wearing a night guard can help you:
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Get rid of morning headaches
- Stop your jaw aches
- Prevent further damage to teeth, dentures, restorations, crowns, and jaw
- Prevent serious oral health issues down the road
My Family Dentistry patient Emily Winsauer says she has certainly seen an improvement. “From the first night I wore the night guard, it kept me from grinding my teeth. But what surprised me was that with each adjustment, there was less stress on my jaw, and my teeth even align better on nights when I forget to wear it. For me, it has definitely been worth it.”
The sooner you take action, the better you can protect your teeth and jaw. If you display any of the side effects (or emotional or physical causes) of teeth grinding, or if a loved one has mentioned that you grind or clench your teeth at night, book an appointment with your dentist immediately.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about bruxism or how to get fitted night guard for teeth grinding, contact our office today.