Many people remain unaware that they grind their teeth at night or clench their jaw while sleeping. The resulting effects of these actions can, however, cause problems for the teeth and the jaw itself, even leading to TMJ or other dental issues.
One way to alleviate these problems and prevent further damage is to wear a night guard. Essentially, a night guard keeps your bottom and top teeth separated by a pliable cushioning, preventing excessive damage from the continual pressure of that clenching and grinding.
To help you determine if you may need one of these night guards, consider the following five signs.
1. You Catch Yourself Grinding Your Teeth at Night
If you wake up during the night and discover you are grinding your teeth, it may be a sure sign that a night guard is needed to help prevent damage to your teeth or jaw.
Chronic teeth grinding, known as bruxism, is common and often accompanied by one or all of the other four signs on this list. Take a look at each one and determine if they describe you as well.
2. You Often Wake Up Many Mornings with an Unexplainable Headache
Waking up with a headache may be the result of grinding your teeth unknowingly during the night. These may be mild headaches or become intense at some point and usually hurt the most in the back or on the sides of your head. Grinding your teeth at night puts undue pressure and strain on your jaws, and this is what can cause the headache.
A night guard can help you limit such headaches by allowing you to better manage your bruxism while you sleep. It does this by decreasing the amount of force with which you are grinding your teeth. Essentially, a night guard can act as a guard, or barrier, between your upper and lower teeth.
3. You Experience Jaw Stiffness, Soreness, or Pain Upon Awakening
Awakening with a stiff, sore, or painful jaw can be the result of your tendency to clench your jaw at night while sleeping. Chronic grinding and jaw clenching strains the jaw muscles and can cause inflammation. Your teeth may also ache, and you may experience what feels like an earache as well.
As a result, a properly fitted night guard may be a solution to help lessen the stress and tension on your jaw and teeth, minimizing that stiffness, soreness, and pain upon awakening.
4. Your Jaws Are Increasingly Making Popping or Clicking Sounds
If clicking or popping sounds occur when you open your mouth to yawn, talk, or eat, your jaw joint positioning may be affected by your clenching and teeth grinding. You may experience slight pain or notice limited motion in your jaw. Such issues can also progress into TMJ disorders.
TMJ disorders involve the inflammation of the jaw and jaw muscles and often result from the excess pressure exerted as during your jaw clenching. Using a night guard will help to keep optimal alignment of the jaw while also lessening the clenching and teeth grinding capabilities.
5. You Exhibit Signs of Tooth Wear
One of the top signs you are grinding your teeth at night or clenching your jaw and need a night guard is the sign of excessive wear on your teeth.
Chronic teeth grinding not only wears down tooth enamel but can also damage dental restorations such as crowns and fillings. Your dentist may find cracked or chipped teeth, and you may experience increased teeth sensitivity as a result.
Tooth enamel is made up of the hardest substance in the body and can take a lot. However, with excessive wearing down, this protective layer is stripped away, exposing nerves in the teeth and leading to a sensitivity to hot, cold, and even sweets.
Night guards not only serve as a cushion between teeth and help lessen the pressure, but they also help protect tooth enamel.
How to Wear and Care for Your Night Guard
Once you and your dentist determine a night guard is right for you, follow these steps to ensure the benefits.
- Brush your teeth and floss before inserting the night guard, following the instructions provided by your dentist.
- Clean your night guard daily with warm water and a gentle soap, and thoroughly rinse it afterward.
- Avoid submerging or soaking your night guard in extremely hot water, denture cleaners, alcohol, or mouthwash.
- Once dry, store your night guard in a protective container away from sunlight and direct heat.
- Inspect the night guard regularly for signs of damage, such as holes. If you find anything like this, talk with your dentist about a replacement.
- Always take your night guard with you to dental appointments to review its fit and shape with your dentist.
Contact Bateson Dentistry to Determine if a Night Guard Will Benefit You
If you are experiencing any of the above signs, you may need a night guard. To learn more and determine if one will benefit you, contact Dr. Bateson and her team for a thorough dental exam and consultation today.