If you grind or clench your teeth in the night, you may wake up with painful teeth, jaws or a headache. If there is no pain to alert you, your spouse may tell you that you grind because the noise keeps her awake, or we may notice signs or teeth wear during a dental exam. There is no definite known cause of teeth grinding or bruxism. Various theories link it to misalignment of the jaw, genetics, allergies or intake of caffeine, tobacco or amphetamines. Tooth grinding often occurs in children and sometimes goes away by the time children reach the age of 10, and other times it becomes worse. The alignment of the permanent teeth may dictate whether one will have bruxism or not. Those with misalignment of the upper jaw to their lower saw seem to be more likely to have bruxism. This occurs most of the time at night because it is a subconscious neuromuscular disorder as the teeth are constantly trying to find its proper rest place. Sometimes stress or anxiety causes bruxism to become worse. Braces often prevent tooth grinding later in life because the teeth have been moved to its proper, comfortable resting place.
A night guard or occlusal guard must be worn to prevent much of the pressure on the teeth during bruxism. It is a horse-shoe shaped mouthpiece that is worn at night or during the day when the teeth grinding or clenching is at its worst. Over-the-counter ones are not recommended as they can alter your bite and can lead to a worse bruxism habit. A custom one made at a dental office is the best one and will last longer. We will take a mold of your teeth and make a custom-made appliance that will fit your teeth perfectly and align your jaw properly. Most patients who complained of migraine headaches or jaw pain see complete or significant improvement after a night guard is worn. Also, a night guard will protect your teeth and prevent significant wear of the enamel of your teeth.