Bruxism and Occlusal Guard
Do you often wake up tired or experience dull headaches upon waking? Do you feel jaw soreness and/or facial and neck pain? If your answer was yes, you might be suffering from bruxism.
Bruxism is the name given to the act of clenching or grinding your teeth while you sleep. Clenching means biting down with pressure for an extended period of time while grinding is the action of moving the jaw back and forth.
Actions like clenching and grinding often happen when you’re under stress and occur the most when you’re sleeping. They have a negative impact on your teeth, even without you noticing (since it happens while you’re sleeping). Bruxism can wear down your teeth, which will erode your teeth enamel making your teeth vulnerable to sensitivity and, ultimately, lead to oral damage like cavities or even root canals (Bruxism is considered a leading cause of root canals).
After talking to your dentist about your symptoms, your dentist might recommend you to use a mouth guard / occlusal guard.
An occlusal guard, or nightguard, is a device made of plastic that is placed in the mouth to cover your teeth. This device is made out of a mold of your teeth, so it adjusts to your bite. It acts as a protective barrier between your top and bottom teeth, preventing them to touch. Nightguards don’t stop you from clenching or grinding, but they serve as a cushion so that you wear down the guard rather than your teeth.
Wearing your nightguard regularly can help you:
Get rid of morning headaches;
Prevent you to strain your jaw muscles and stop your jaw, face and neck aches;
Get a restful night’s sleep;
Stop yourself from damaging your teeth and from causing further dental problems.
Being a stress-related issue, there are other modifications to your lifestyle, besides wearing an occlusal guard, that you may consider in order to prevent or lessen your teeth grinding and/or clenching:
Limit your drinking of caffeine and alcohol;
If you smoke, stop smoking, especially before sleeping;
Use relaxation techniques before bedtimes, such as meditation or yoga, to help you let go of negative and stress causing thoughts.
Wearing an occlusal guard
Your occlusal guard is meant to be worn at night while you sleep;
It will take some time getting used to it. It is normal and it will feel comfortable after a while;
Your nightguard should be cleaned before and after each wear to prevent bacteria. You can rinse it with clean cool water or brush it with toothpaste. Do not wash it with hot water as it could warp.