Night Guards

Everyone knows that bacteria damage teeth. Everyone knows of the danger of cavities and infections. Everyone knows they should brush and floss their teeth though they may not do it. But what many may not realize is that sometimes the source of tooth damage can come from a much closer source — sometimes our own practices and habits can harm the teeth.

One of these habits is bruxism, better known as teeth grinding. Now everyone grinds or clenches their teeth from time to time when they’re stressed or anxious. It’s when the teeth grinding becomes a regular occurrence that problems begin to develop. For patients who grind their teeth in the greater Phoenix area, Hatch Family Dentistry provides some potential solutions.

Why is bruxism problematic?

Teeth grinding places immense pressure on the teeth, muscles, tendons and joints, causing a number of long term problems that could arise. For example, chronic teeth grinding could result in:

  • Worn down/weakened teeth: First of all, bruxism can over time wear down the crowns of your teeth. As strong as the enamel on your teeth may be, it cannot withstand hours of constant pressure and friction against other teeth. As a result, your teeth could become worn down and more prone to dental problems like tooth decay, sensitivity and root canal infection.
  • Fractured teeth: Even worse, enough pressure applied for a long enough time could cause your teeth to develop cracks and fractures. Worse case scenarios could include the tooth splitting completely down the middle.
  • Loose teeth: Not only can the pressure applied by chronic bruxism wear down a tooth, it could cause the tooth to become loose within the gums as well. This means that the tooth is more prone to avulsion (being knocked out), which could have serious long term effects on your mouth.
  • Temporomandibular joint disorders: Your teeth aren’t the only part of the body affected by teeth grinding. Your jaw pays a price as well. Bruxism causes the muscles and tendons of the jaw to become tight and sore, which can in turn reduce the normal range of motion. Grinding and clenching can also wear down the cartilage in the jaw joint.

As you can probably imagine, each one of these problems is serious in its own right. A variety of procedures including dental crowns, bridges, or even extractions might be needed to help your teeth recover from the damage.

Many people may not even be aware that they’re grinding and clenching because they do it in their sleep.

How do I know if I grind my teeth?

So, how do you know if you are engaging in bruxism?

The only reliable way to see if your teeth have been affected by bruxism is to ask your dentist, but there are some general symptoms you could look for. If you notice chronic jaw soreness or headaches, particularly first thing in the morning, for example, you might be seeing the after-effects of teeth grinding. Again, though, your dentist is the only one who can give an accurate picture of the situation, so be wary of self-diagnosing yourself.

How can a night guard solve my bruxism problems?

Unfortunately, there is no “cure” for bruxism. There are no medications or treatments that can get rid of a person’s teeth grinding tendencies. If the behavior is caused by stress or anxiety, reducing the source of that stress or finding stress-managing methods can be a potential option, but it’s not a 100% fix.

Dentists have developed a treatment option that doesn’t get rid of the bruxism itself, but can help the mouth deal much better with pressures and effects of grinding. To make sure that patients who experience chronic teeth grinding don’t continually hurt their teeth in the process, dentists have developed special night guards that patients can wear to protect their teeth. Each night guard is custom-made for each patient and can fit over his or her teeth perfectly, sort of like an invisible retainer. The piece of plastic might not seem like much, but it can be extremely effective at preventing further damage to the teeth.

If you think you might be grinding your teeth chronically or if you just want to learn more about night guards, contact Hatch Family Dentistry in Tempe! Dr. Mason Konkle, Dr. Jennifer Konkle and Dr. Hyrum Hatch make customized night guards to reduce the effects of bruxism for our patients. Just call (480) 838-3073 or visit our website to set up an appointment today!