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How Night Guards Help with Teeth Grinding

Clenching or grinding your teeth while you're asleep is pretty common among children and adults. But when it starts to cause headaches, tooth or jaw pain, or damage to your teeth, it's time to talk to your dentist about bruxism. A common treatment for sleep bruxism is a night guard. Learn more about sleep bruxism and night guards to protect your teeth.

Maybe this has happened to you: you wake up and immediately feel a headache. Or, you've noticed your jaw is a little sore, or perhaps you've even had chipped or lose teeth. These are common signs of bruxism—or teeth grinding. Thankfully, your dentist and dental hygienist are trained to look for signs of bruxism and help you with treatment. They may recommend a mouthguard to wear at night, an easy way to protect your teeth from damage from grinding and clenching.

Nightguards have many names. They are also called mouthguards, occlusal guards, dental guards, bite splints, or nocturnal bite plates. They are retainer-like soft or hard plastic pieces that cover either the top or bottom set of teeth. Nightguards are popular treatments for sleep bruxism. Nightguards cushion your teeth from the force of clenching and prevent the teeth from grinding together, preventing headaches, damaged teeth, and inflamed gums.

Learn about sleep bruxism and its characteristic signs and symptoms, and the popular forms of treatment recommended by dentists, including night guards.

What is Sleep Bruxism?

If you frequently wake up with a headache, tooth, or jaw pain, you may want to ask your dental hygienist if you have bruxism. According to the American Academy of Oral Medicine, teeth grinding is common among children and adults at times. Still, if it's frequent enough to cause issues with your teeth or jaw, it's time to speak to a dental professional.

Common Signs of Sleep Bruxism

Talk to your dentist about the following signs and symptoms:

  • Chipped teeth
  • Waking up with headaches
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorder—inflammation of the jaw due to clenching
  • Taking antidepressants with paroxetine
  • Chronic grinding

Sleep Bruxism in Children

It is common for children to grind their teeth at some point, especially children under five. Most children outgrow teeth grinding without treatment, with no harm to their teeth. Still, your dentist may recommend treatment depending on the severity of the bruxism.

Nightguards

There are several ways to reduce the impact of bruxism on your oral health. One of the most common is a night guard: a mouthguard typically worn while sleeping. Some night guards are available without a prescription at most pharmacies. To use it, you boil it or microwave it (follow instructions), let it cool for a few seconds, and then gently bite it to shape it to your mouth.

Customized Night Guards from Your Dentist

Nightguards are also available from your dentist. Customized guards tend to be of a higher quality and are custom-made to your teeth. Your dentist will take an impression of your teeth, then send the resulting mold to a dental laboratory. This facility will create a custom-fitted night mouthguard for you. Your dentist will check the mouth guard's fit and make any necessary adjustments before you take it home. Typically a customized night guard is a more expensive device than ones purchased over-the-counter. Still, it can be more comfortable to wear.

Caring for Your Mouthguard

It's best to put the mouthguard in just before sleeping. You can take it out as soon as you wake up. It should start feeling comfortable after wearing it for four to six weeks.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, you should wash your guard before and after each use. Rinse your mouthguard with clean, cold water or brush it with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Don't leave the night guard in a sunny spot or hot area. Don't wash it with hot water either, because the plastic could warp and no longer fit you properly. Store your mouthguard in a container and check it regularly. If you find that your guard feels loose or uncomfortable, it's probably time to replace it.

Other Treatments for Teeth Grinding

If a night guard is uncomfortable, you can talk to your dentist about other treatment options:

  1. Stress prevention: One of the leading causes of bruxism is anxiety. Taking time to unwind before bed can reduce your teeth clenching and grinding. You can read a book, do a bedtime yoga routine, or take a warm bath.
  2. Keep a sleep log: A sleep log or diary includes when you went to bed when you woke up, and any time you were up during the night. Spending a few minutes in the evening and morning to reflect on sleep quality will help identify what may contribute to bruxism.
  3. Change of diet or medication: Your dentist might recommend avoiding stimulants like caffeine because that can increase teeth grinding. Certain medications, like antidepressants, might also contribute to the issue. So, tell your dentist about medications you are taking so they can suggest an alternative if one is warranted.

The most important thing to know about bruxism is that it can be treated with your dental hygienist and dentist's help. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, you are not far away from finding relief.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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