Oral health plays a crucial role in our overall well-being, and one aspect that often goes unnoticed is the impact of teeth grinding and clenching, also known as bruxism. Many individuals unconsciously grind or clench their teeth, especially during sleep, which can lead to a range of dental issues and even affect their quality of life. A nightguard, a dental appliance designed to be worn during sleep, has emerged as a valuable tool in preventing and mitigating the adverse effects of bruxism. This blog will explore the reasons why using a nightguard is essential for maintaining optimal dental health.
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is a common dental condition characterized by the involuntary grinding, clenching, or gnashing of teeth, often occurring during sleep. This condition can lead to various dental and health issues if left untreated. Bruxism can result from a combination of factors, including stress, anxiety, misaligned teeth, sleep disorders, and even certain medications. The exact cause of bruxism isn’t always clear, but it’s believed to be a subconscious response to emotional or physical stress. The repeated grinding and clenching can exert excessive pressure on teeth, wearing down the enamel and leading to tooth sensitivity, fractures, and other dental problems. In some cases, it can also contribute to jaw pain, headaches, and discomfort in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Recognizing and addressing bruxism is important to prevent its detrimental effects on oral health and overall well-being. Although you can work to stop these underlying causes of bruxism, doing so can be a long and challenging process. In the meantime, it is important for you to use a nightguard to reduce your bruxism symptoms and prevent further oral health problems.
What is a Nightguard?
A nightguard is a piece of plastic similar to a retainer that covers the surfaces in your mouth that touch when you bite. The guard can be worn on the top or bottom set of teeth and can be customized to comfortably fit the unique shape of your teeth and bite. A nightguard goes by many names. You may hear a dentist call it a mouthguard, bite splint, dental guard, occlusal guard, or nocturnal bite guard. There are various kinds of nightguards you can get, whether hard or soft, over-the-counter or custom-made. The harder the nightguard, the more durable and effective it will be. If you have a severe case of bruxism, a hard nightguard may be the best option for you. Although softer nightguards may be more comfortable and cheaper, they aren’t as effective or as long-lasting.
A nightguard is primarily used to address teeth grinding (bruxism) and teeth clenching, however, nightguards are also employed for managing conditions like temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, preventing tooth wear, safeguarding dental restorations, and even aiding in snoring and sleep apnea. Nightguards are typically custom-made to fit the individual’s mouth comfortably and securely. They create a barrier between the upper and lower teeth, absorbing and distributing the forces exerted during grinding or clenching. By minimizing the impact of these forces, nightguards help preserve tooth enamel, reduce sensitivity, prevent jaw pain, and mitigate potential damage to dental work. Although you can find a one-size-fits-all nightguard over-the-counter for a low cost, this option will likely cause your bite to shift. It is far wiser and much more effective to use a nightguard custom-made by a dentist using an impression of your teeth.
Why Should I Use a Nightguard?
There are many important reasons you should investigate getting a nightguard if you suspect you may have bruxism, whether to get rid of your pesky headaches and jaw pain or to prevent future health problems.
- Teeth Grinding and Clenching Prevention: Nightguards are primarily used to protect your teeth from the damaging effects of bruxism (teeth grinding) and clenching. These actions, often occurring during sleep, can lead to enamel wear, tooth fractures, and other dental issues. A nightguard acts as a cushion, absorbing the grinding forces and reducing their impact on your teeth.
- Preservation of Tooth Enamel: Bruxism and clenching can erode tooth enamel over time. By providing a protective barrier, a nightguard helps preserve your enamel, preventing tooth sensitivity and the need for extensive dental repairs.
- Reduction of Jaw Pain and Discomfort: Nightguards can alleviate jaw pain, headaches, and discomfort associated with bruxism and clenching. They help relax the jaw muscles and reduce the strain placed on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
- Protection of Dental Work: If you have dental restorations like crowns, bridges, or veneers, a nightguard can safeguard these investments by preventing excessive wear caused by grinding or clenching.
- Prevention of Tension Headaches: Bruxism-related tension and strain can contribute to frequent headaches. Using a nightguard can help alleviate muscle tension in the head and neck area, reducing the frequency and intensity of headaches.
- Management of TMJ Disorders: Nightguards can provide relief for individuals with temporomandibular joint disorders. By promoting a more relaxed jaw position during sleep, they help alleviate TMJ-related pain and discomfort.
- Protection During Orthodontic Treatment: If you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment, a nightguard can protect braces or aligners from damage due to grinding or clenching forces.
- Snoring and Mild Sleep Apnea: Some nightguards are designed to reposition the jaw slightly forward, helping to keep the airway open during sleep. This can aid in reducing snoring and mild sleep apnea symptoms.
- Overall Oral Health Maintenance: Using a nightguard can contribute to maintaining good oral health by preventing the negative consequences of nighttime habits that are beyond your conscious control.
- Improved Sleep Quality: By reducing disruptions caused by teeth grinding or clenching, a nightguard can lead to improved sleep quality, leaving you more refreshed and rested in the morning.
- Saved Money: Although a durable, custom-made nightguard can cost several hundreds of dollars, this is a small price when compared to the potential restorative dentistry costs you may face without the preventative measure of a nightguard.
Think You Need a Nightguard?
If you’re looking for a dentist who can help you determine if you have bruxism and need a nightguard, look no further! The team at Salling & Tate is skilled in both general and cosmetic dentistry, and can give you an exam to provide you with the best treatment options. Give us a call today at 910-256-9040 or visit our website to book your next appointment.