What are grinding guards?
Grinding guards, as the name implies, are oral appliances that help prevent problems caused by teeth grinding (also known as bruxism). They can be used during the day, but mainly they are worn at night when you are grinding unconsciously. Teeth grinding is actually very common- we see it a lot. Most people aren’t even aware that they are doing it, till they visit the dentist who notices signs of wear. It is pretty loud though, so sometimes partners are able to hear, or if it’s very heavy- you may get some aching or symptoms in your jaw when you wake in the morning.
What are the types of grinding guards?
Custom-made grinding guards or occlusal splints are made by the dentist, these mouth-guards are far better than over-the-counter boil and bite type which most grinders go through pretty rapidly. The biting surface needs to be hard acrylic, or it will wear through very quickly. They fit tightly on your teeth and there’s no chance of you swallowing them- a question most patients always seem to ask. They must be adjusted to be ‘appropriate’ and ‘even’ in your bite. Most splints are simply hard acrylic, which covers all of your teeth- some have a soft lining inside, if for whatever reason you have difficulty tolerating them. Finally there are some small anterior guards that fit just at the front of your mouth- these are popular amongst some dentists.
Why do I grind my teeth?
There is still no exact reason why people grind their teeth, but factors such as stress, malocclusion (abnormal bite) or crooked teeth are believed to play a role. It is also very common in children and people who sleep very deeply.
How can I tell if I grind my teeth while sleeping?
Chronic teeth grinding results in jaw pain, headaches, and teeth sensitivity when you wake up. If you experience any of these symptoms, you might be grinding your teeth during the night. As I mentioned, a sure way to tell if you grind your teeth while sleeping is to ask a relative or friend to check for sounds while you’re asleep. Your dentist will also be able to spot the characteristic signs of grinding during the comprehensive examination.
Why should I wear grinding guards?
Grinding wears the teeth down much faster than during normal function. Grinding guards work by protecting your teeth from grating against each other, thinning the enamel and shortening the teeth. Over time your bite will change and the aesthetics of the teeth will be compromised. Other advantages of wearing grinding guards are:
- Treats and prevents jaw pain and headaches caused by teeth grinding
- Better nights sleep
- Helps prevent Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ)
- Protects enamel on the teeth
- Protects the bite
- Prevents your teeth from getting shorter
- Helps prevent toothache or sensitivity
- Helps prevent cracked or chipped teeth
- Helps prevent tooth fillings from breaking under the stress
Are there other points I need to consider before getting a grinding guard?
Your grinding guard should feel comfortable (ish) as you will be wearing it while you sleep. If you are grinding- get one- the sooner the better- as lost tooth structure is not easy to replace without space in your bite to do so. If you break your guard from constant pressure, be sure to get another one made as soon as possible. Get ready for the adjustment period: wearing anything at night will take some getting used to, so be ready to persevere for a couple of weeks before it feels normal. Another important point to consider is that the grinding guard should cover all your teeth. Remember, the purpose of a grinding guard is to protect your teeth from further damage. Grinding guards that don’t cover teeth at the back of your mouth protect the back teeth from grinding but the space left between them can lead to tooth movement and the development of an open bite (your upper and lower teeth don’t touch each other evenly when you bite).
Are there practical solutions I can do to lessen grinding my teeth?
Yes, you may try these steps to help with your teeth grinding:
- Take time to relax and reduce stress
- Exercise more
- Eat more healthily
- Observe when you’re grinding your teeth during the day and try determining where this habit usually results from (when concentrating/ when you’re angry/ when you are listening to music etc.). Learn to be aware so you can stop it, if, of course your grinding is happening during the day.
- Lessen your caffeine intake