By David Hudnall, DMD
We see mouthguards on the shelves of drug stores and supercenters all of the time. While we may not need one right now, knowing that they are available brings a certain peace of mind. Somehow, we are better off knowing there is a solution for tooth protection against sports injuries and to alleviate muscle pain associated with the jaws.
But are over-the-counter mouthguards the best course of treatment? Can wearing a night guard make bruxism worse? Let’s dive in.
Bruxism is an oral habit characterized by destructive, parafunctional behavior whereby the person grinds, clenches, or gnashes their teeth unconsciously. The causes of bruxism include stress, anxiety, anger, frustration, sleep disruption, and neurological disorders.
Bruxism can also be the result of dental problems such as an abnormal bite, missing teeth, or crowded teeth. Bruxism is more common during sleep; however, it can also occur while the sufferer is awake. Both children and adults can suffer from this condition.
Symptoms of Bruxism
Symptoms of bruxism include pain in the muscles of the jaw and neck, locking of the jaw, clicking or popping of the jaw upon opening or closing, tension headaches, ear pain, and excessive wear or unexplained damage to the teeth. The pain associated with chronic bruxism can become debilitating and affect your overall quality of life. The jaw pain and clenching and grinding alone can be debilitating.
Without treatment, bruxism can lead to tooth damage, trauma to the periodontal support structures, which can lead to loose teeth and tooth loss, pathology of the masticatory muscles, temporomandibular joint pain, headaches, and even hearing disorders. The combination of symptoms of bruxism varies widely from person to person.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or suspect that you may be grinding your teeth, talk to your dentist, who can examine your mouth and jaws for signs of bruxism and to diagnose the problem. Also, it’s important to understand that bruxism is also sometimes known as temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ disorder.
See Also: Sports Mouthguards and Teeth Grinding Night Guards Protect Your Teeth
Most Common Bruxism Questions
So, someone has told you that you are keeping them awake by grinding your teeth at night. What are some of the common concerns about tooth grinding? Should you get a mouthguard? Can wearing a mouthguard make bruxism worse?”
What Aggravates Bruxism?
Current literature shows how the contemporary lifestyle, working environment, diet, and habits influence both the patient’s psychological and emotional states, and these factors can present as a masticatory system disorder. In other words, patients are subconsciously taking out the stress they experience in life on the jaws without realizing that they are doing so. Here are five reasons that you may be experiencing bruxism:
- Sleep Disruptions
- Lifestyle Choices
Stress is the number one factor associated with bruxism. How you choose to deal with stress is an important piece of the puzzle. Practice cognitive behavioral therapy to minimize negative thinking and reduce stress before going to bed. Establish and stick to a calming routine in order to properly wind down and prepare yourself for restful, reparative sleep.
Tooth grinding can run in families. About half of all patients who suffer from bruxism have at least one close family member who has the same condition. Although you can’t choose your family, you can’t use this information to your advantage by practicing preventive techniques to keep the jaw joint healthy.
Chronic snoring and conditions that affect sleep quality, such as obstructive sleep apnea, can precipitate nighttime tooth grinding. Have these conditions assessed and addressed by your physician accordingly.
Lifestyle choices, including consumption of nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine, all have been shown to contribute to bruxism. Eliminating these components can minimize parafunctional activity as well as have a positive effect on your overall health.
Medications such as certain types of SSRIs, amphetamines, anti-psychotic drugs, and other prescription medications can contribute to involuntary muscular movement, including bruxism. Speak with your physician about the possibility of switching to medications with fewer side effects.
Can Wearing a Mouthguard Make Bruxism Worse?
Traditional treatment for bruxism may include the use of a mouthguard to separate the teeth, easing tension on the chewing musculature by placing it into a more relaxed and neutral position and preventing further damage to the teeth caused by subconsciously engaging with one another.
Other adjunctive therapies include counseling, behavioral modification, biofeedback, and medications aimed at relieving or reducing anxiety.
Mouthguards can be a helpful form of therapy, but they only address the symptoms of bruxism, not the root cause of the problem. Custom-made mouthguards generally work most effectively to limit overnight grinding, clenching, and their associated consequences.
Over-the-counter mouthguards can help in a pinch, but in the long-term, they can actually make underlying conditions worse, requiring more invasive treatment once the person finally goes to the dentist. Therefore, if you are experiencing any bruxism symptoms, it is to your advantage to have a dental professional fabricate a custom night guard expressly made to treat your specific issues.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. From night guards to therapy, recommended treatment options are wide and varied. Don’t be afraid to try different things.
See Also: How to Fix Grinded Teeth: The Comprehensive Guide
Why Do I Suddenly Have Bruxism?
Has anything in your life changed? Are you going through family turmoil? Is your work situation causing you grief? Is your emotional state less than ideal? People often develop bruxism as a reaction to stress or other external factors. However, the habit can last throughout the calmer periods of your life and continue to wreak havoc on the body as a whole.
Multi-pronged treatments that address different aspects of stress reduction can help patients find the source of their bruxism in order to better manage and overcome it. Seek treatment. You deserve pain-free jaw muscles, no neck pain, and excellent oral health.
Does Bruxism Ever Go Away?
The answer to this question can be complicated. While it is possible that tooth grinding could resolve on its own, depending on the underlying causes, the likelihood of it just going away is unlikely. Understanding what triggers your bruxism episodes will provide insight and a clearer picture of what you can do to not let it negatively impact your life.
If your bruxism is stress-induced, as is the case for most people, aside from a change in your lifestyle that allows you to live a more calm and peaceful life, bruxism will likely recur from time to time. You may always need a dental night guard for your TMJ pain.
How Can I Fix Bruxism Naturally?
Treatment for teeth grinding involves prevention of discomfort and avoiding the triggers that cause symptoms that lead to a flare-up. A routine of regular mouth exercises and head-and-neck massages can help to prevent pain and relieve sore muscles associated with tooth grinding.
Wearing well-fitting custom night guards helps to minimize tooth damage. Aside from bruxism caused by a malocclusion, managing the stress in your life will have the greatest, most long-lasting impact on bruxism.
Premier Mouth Guard with European Denture Center
By protecting your teeth from further damage and providing relief for jaw muscle pain, dentist-prescribed mouthguards can be life-changing. A dental appliance doesn’t have to be an albatross. European Denture Center‘s association with a state-of-the-art digital dental lab allows us to manufacture great-fitting mouthguards to address nighttime grinding or sports injury prevention that fit comfortably with almost no adjustments.
To better understand all of our denture services and the benefits offered by mouthguards, set your consultation appointment with one of our skilled dental professionals today!