Occasionally grinding your teeth isn’t the end of the world, but when it becomes a habit, it can cause damage.
Grinding your teeth in your sleep can happen subconsciously, but you might wake up with a sore jaw, tooth pain, and headache as a consequence.
The good news is orthodontic treatment is available to help mitigate the problem. You might be surprised to learn that getting braces can actually solve your teeth grinding problem. Read on to learn how.
WHY DO YOU GRIND YOUR TEETH?
There are several reasons why you clench your teeth, and this includes:
Teeth Misalignment – When your upper and lower teeth are not aligned, you are more likely to grind your teeth.
Stress – Tension and frustration can lead to teeth grinding. If you are frequently angered or stressed, clenching can be a coping mechanism.
Medical conditions – Teeth grinding can be attributed to some health conditions like temporomandibular ( TMJ/ TMD) or an ear infection which affects the jaw muscles.
Sleep disorders – Patients with sleep apnea ( a condition where the airways close off during sleep, limiting oxygen) suffer from teeth grinding at night more often than others without this condition.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM WITH TEETH GRINDING?
Chronic teeth grinding causes damage to the teeth in many ways and affects your quality of life. Issues that arise from grinding one’s teeth include:
- Increased teeth sensitivity due to erosion of the tooth enamel, which leaves the roots and gums exposed.
- Surface tooth damage due to wear and tear caused by teeth clenching.
- Jaw and face pain as a result of muscle tightness.
- Jaw locking, which prevents the mouth from properly opening and closing.
- Pain when chewing
WHAT IS BRUXISM?
Bruxism is a condition where a person clenches or grinds their teeth while not actively chewing food. The teeth grind together as the jaw moves forcefully back and forth or sideways, and in most cases, the person is not aware, as it most commonly occurs when a person is sleeping.
Bruxism is a common sleep disorder that can lead to sore pain, loose teeth, headaches, jaw pain & stiffness, and dulled teeth sensitivity in severe cases.
The precise cause of bruxism is not definitive, but some conditions that may increase the chances of developing this disorder include:
- Anxiety disorder – The feeling of excessive worry, intense fear that can interfere with your sleep. Some of these include; post-traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks.
- Cracked tooth syndrome – CTS is where part of the tooth cracks, but no part of the tooth has broken off. It’s detected when an individual feels pain while eating certain foods or chewing. If the pain is severe, a dentist might recommend pulling the tooth.
Bruxism can be mitigated through the following:
- Braces – Custom-made braces help align teeth into the desired position and can also prevent teeth grinding. However, in the early days wearing braces can cause severe teeth clenching as the teeth align.
- Invisalign – These are clear aligners used to adjust the teeth into the desired position. They are periodically changed until the last set remains to hold the teeth in the right direction long-term.
- Night guards – Patients suffering from severe bruxism need to wear a mouth guard at night. A mouth guard takes a while to adjust to, but it will help in the long run. As the teeth rub against each other during sleep, guards prevent jaw and face pain as they cushion the jaw muscles.
TREATMENT OF BRUXISM
In most cases, bruxism does not require treatment as it’s not usually too severe in adults, and children outgrow it without treatment. However, for the few extreme cases, patients need to be proactive about stopping bruxism.
Manage Stress and Anxiety– Seeking help from a licensed therapist to manage your stress and anxiety levels can reduce teeth grinding as a coping mechanism.
Also, the short-term use of antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication as recommended by a doctor can help stabilize one’s emotions and reduce stress.
Addressing sleep apnea – If you suffer from a sleep-related disorder, you need to address it with a qualified medical doctor. Exercising regularly and getting enough sleep can help solve these issues. A doctor may recommend getting a CPAP machine to help mitigate the condition.
Dental correction – If your teeth have worn out due to severe clenching, your dentist may need to reshape, realign and repair the chewing surfaces.
Mouth guards and Splints– Splints fit over the top teeth and some at the bottom and act as a barrier, keeping the jaws separated and in a more relaxed position during sleep.
If braces don’t mitigate teeth grinding, custom mouth guards can be worn with braces when asleep to protect the teeth. Most dentists and orthodontists recommend a hard plastic mouth guard covering all teeth in the lower or upper arch.
BENEFITS OF MOUTH GUARDS
1. Prevent headaches
Temporomandibular disorder ( TMJ) contributed to by excessive bruxism leads to severe headaches.. Wearing a night guard helps reduce this discomfort.
2. Prevent snoring
Snoring may seem like an insignificant issue, but it can still disrupt sleep. The mouth guard’s design allows air intake between the jaws enabling you to breathe better.
3. Prevent tooth damage
Unconscious teeth clenching at night can lead to tooth damage, and excessive enamel wear affects tooth sensitivity. Wearing a mouth guard will protect your teeth.
Mouth guards also help align your teeth, preventing overbite or underbite that cause tooth damage.
4. Reduce jaw tension and pain
A well-designed night guard by an orthodontist that fits your jaw perfectly will protect your teeth, even with braces, and prevent any jaw tension during sleep.
Additionally, mouth guards maximize the quality of your sleep with jaw muscle relaxation and minimize symptoms that come with bruxism.
5. Saves you money
Dental treatment to restore teeth is not cheap. Teeth grinding slowly chips your teeth away, but with a custom-designed night guard, you can reduce the damage and save some money in the long run.
HOW AMAZING SMILE NYC ORTHODONTIST CAN HELP MITIGATE GRINDING TEETH
With over thirty years, Amazing Smile NYC Orthodontist provides quality orthodontist care for patients throughout; Queen, Long Island, and Brooklyn. Contact us today at (718) 275-3200