Stress can take a real toll on our bodies in ways we might never expect. It can impact our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, making us irritable or difficult to focus. Stress can also lead to health issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.

But stress can also impact our oral health, causing us to clench our teeth when we sleep. If you’re feeling stressed and have been clenching your teeth at night, why not try a night guard to protect your teeth and help you get a better night’s sleep?

What is bruxism, and how can a night guard help?

If you have been tooth clenching or grinding, you may have a condition known as bruxism. This condition can occur during the day or at night though it can be most damaging at night as it happens when we are unaware and can’t immediately correct the behavior. During the day, tooth clenching and grinding are brought on when we are trying to concentrate or are angry or stressed.

At night, our subconscious takes over, and our body reacts. Because we’re not actively aware of it, the grinding and clenching can be somewhat extreme, causing morning jaw pain, fatigue, and jaw dysfunction. We can’t treat sleep bruxism through behavior modification. Additionally, night guards (also referred to as a bruxism splint or Occlusal splint) are often prescribed.

The Symptoms of Bruxism

Typical signs and symptoms that you have been experiencing teeth grinding or clenching include the following:

  • Grinding or clenching so loudly that it wakes up your sleep partner
  • Flattened, fractured, chipped, or loose teeth
  • Increased oral pain and sensitivity
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Tired, tight, or sore jaw muscles
  • Lockjaw (jaw won’t open or close completely or feels like it is stuck in place)
  • Ear pain
  • Dull headache that starts in the temples on either side of your lower forehead
  • Damage to the inside of your cheek from chewing
  • Disrupted sleep

Who is at risk for bruxism?

Though bruxism often comes on due to stress, certain risk factors can increase your likelihood of teeth clenching and grinding.

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Family history
  • Misaligned bite
  • Smoking or other tobacco usage
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
  • Medical and mental health ailments such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, ADHD, night terrors, gastro-esophageal reflux disorder (GERD), and epilepsy
  • Various medications, especially antidepressants or other psychiatric medications

Use a night guard to protect your teeth from bruxism.

If you are experiencing bruxism, your dentist or primary care physician will likely recommend a night guard for use when you are sleeping. When prescribed by a medical or dental professional, your custom night guard will be created out of acrylic and will fit over your teeth, similar to how a retainer works. The acrylic sits over the teeth, protecting them from coming into contact with one another as you clench or grind. Using a night guard can help protect your teeth from tooth wear, gum recessions, cracks, and tooth shifting.

Further, a night guard provides approximately two to four millimeters of tooth separation so that the jaw muscles can’t become engaged entirely. This means you are less likely to wake up with jaw pain or tension in your face and neck.

Suppose you are grinding or clenching your teeth during the day. In that case, the dentist or doctor may recommend breathing exercises or meditation to help you destress and use the night guard whenever possible.

How can the damage from bruxism be treated?

If your bruxism isn’t caught early enough, it can lead to a toothache, more serious forms of jaw pain such as Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD), and sleep issues. If your teeth have experienced damage, common corrections include dental crowns and veneers. Dental crowns, sometimes referred to as caps, are customized by your dentist and can cover broken, cracked, or discolored teeth. Crowns, including same-day dental crowns, are highly durable, long-lasting, and blend in with your adjacent natural teeth.

Dental veneers are another typical cosmetic dental service that can correct teeth damaged from bruxism, including chipped and crooked teeth. A permanent solution, dental veneers consist of thin films of porcelain that can enhance your appearance and self-esteem, helping you to feel like smiling again. Veneers are also a great solution for patients with spaces between their teeth or dull or stained teeth.

Bloomington Modern Dentistry can help you with a night guard to treat your bruxism.

If you are worried about long-term damage to your teeth due to bruxism, now is the time to request an appointment with Bloomington Modern Dentistry in Bloomington, IL. We know the damage that bruxism can cause and we are confident that a night guard can not only help protect your teeth, but help you to get a better night sleep too. So what are you waiting for? Contact us today.