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Clenching and Grinding Your Teeth at Night:Fact or Fiction?

Has your dentist told you that you clench or grind your teeth at night?

Have you ever been told you grind your teeth at night? Ever wonder why your dentist is making these claims but you have never noticed any symptoms or never been told by your significant other that you do so?

Did they recommend a "night guard” or “occlusal guard” that you didn’t think you really needed? In this month’s issue, I want to dispel any myths out there about the reality of grinding your teeth, also known as bruxism. Many patients deny that they clench and  grind their teeth at night even when there is clear evidence of tooth wear and gum recession present. Some patients even feel offended that such a claim was made. When your dentist tells you that you grind your teeth, this is not an educated guess, it is a fact. Our goal is to educate you on the situation so that you can take action if you want to. The problem that I see on a daily basis is that people seem to regard teeth grinding and clenching as a “character flaw,” when in reality, the majority of people clench or grind to some degree. Hopefully, I will make all of you so-called “grinders” feel better about yourselves, because I am a grinder! That’s right, I have been a severe grinder since my late teens and just like you, I didn’t believe it either. I had many symptoms of a grinder (morning headaches and jaw tension, temper-ature sensitivity throughout the mouth, receding gums, chipping teeth), however, I attributed them to other things in life like stress or just being born with “sensitive teeth.”

grinderThe thought of wearing an appliance every night for a problem that didn’t seem real was not appealing to me. Then I cracked my first molar. It was only a small hairline fracture, but when I chewed on it I definitely knew it was there! So I finally broke down in dental school and made myself an “occlusal guard” to wear at night. Occlusal guards are hard acrylic appliances custom made for you that help to prevent any further damage by protecting your teeth. After about 2 weeks of wearing this appliance, something I was NOT looking forward to, I finally realized what true comfort was. My teeth sensitivity went away, I felt no tension in my jaw or head in the morning, and felt more refreshed then ever! I was as much of a skeptic about my supposed grinding problem as many others are. Most people don’t willingly want to wear an appliance when they sleep, but once they do, they can’t believe they slept without it for all those years!

Here are some facts to help you make a better decision on whether you should consider protecting yourself with a night appliance.

FICTION: “There is no way I will be able to go to sleep with anything like that in my mouth.”

FACT: Most patients claim they can not sleep without this night appliance once they realize how much better they feel in the morning and throughout the day. Most grinders do not sleep through the night or even if they do, never feel totally refreshed, despite how many hours of sleep they get. The reason is they are in such tension all night that they frequently awake themselves and never get to the important “REM” sleep that the body needs to properly recover.

FICTION: “I will just buy an over-the-counter “boil and bite” guard and it will do the same thing.”

FACT: Although, these guards may be attractive because of the price, these can actually do more harm to you than good. Over the counter guards can make you grind more because they are soft and your brain registers that as food. This increased clenching can give you severe muscle spasms resulting in increased jaw pain and headaches.

FICTION: “Why should I get an occlusal guard now? I can always get one later on in life if things get really bad.”

FACT: Occlusal guards do not fix any damage that has been done to the teeth, it is more of a way to prevent any further damage from clenching and grinding. Dentin, which is the layer of your tooth underneath the enamel, wears 15 times faster than enamel! In addition, your grinding could lead to other problems like a TMJ disorder, which would require more involved treatment. Therefore, the sooner you start wearing one, the sooner this destructive process will be addressed.

By |April 22nd, 2013|Uncategorized|