Bruxism: Treatment Options for Night Time Teeth Grinding
What you call involuntary teeth grinding has an official term in the world of dental health. Bruxism is that term and it can refer to involuntary grinding that takes place either while you are awake or asleep. Grinding that only takes place during the night is known as nocturnal bruxism and is potentially a much more serious problem if only because you are less aware of the fact that it is taking place.
One telltale sign that you may be unknowingly suffering from nocturnal bruxism is routinely waking up with a sore jaw, aching teeth or even a headache. Other symptoms of involuntary grinding of teeth would be a notable dulling of sharp teeth like the incisors or unexplained wearing down of flattened teeth like molars. In some instances, you may not need to wait until morning for symptoms. When a bed partner wakes you up at night with complaints about the sound your teeth make as they grind against each, it would be a mistake to dismiss it as nothing serious.
Bruxism can result from physiological conditions arising from improper development of the upper and lower teeth. This abnormality can actually force involuntary grinding of some top teeth against some bottom teeth. More common, however, is bruxism which is stimulated not by physical stress, but psychological. If you are grinding your teeth while sleeping, bruxism could be an involuntary physical manifestation of unresolved issues related to anxiety, tension, frustration or repressed hostility.
If your bruxism is not the result of improper physical stress, prevention may be as simple as resolving any psychological issues that may be at play. For instance, perhaps you are grinding your teeth at night because you are not happy at your job in which case finding another job may well be the answer. Of course, if resolving psychological issues were only that simple, not only would there be fewer cases of bruxism, the mental health care industry as it is know would fail to exist. Preventing the causes of bruxism may provide more immediate relief than treating the symptoms, but only if you can ensure that the steps you have taken relieve causes of stress are the psychological equivalent of a dental night guard or, in a worst case scenario, oral surgery.
Non-Dental Treatment Options
A number of treatment options are available for bruxism, including a few that leave the dental profession completely out of the equation. Many of these treatments fall into the category of alternative health care. Whether you want to trust the future of your teeth to an acupuncture needles, biofeedback technology, yoga instructors or even twice a week therapy with a highly education and equally high paid psychologist is up to you.
Dental Treatment Options
Whether the cause of your involuntary nocturnal teeth grinding results from the medical discipline of orthodontics or behavioral psychology, bruxism is symptomatic of a dental problem. Visit your dentist more information on which of the following options are best suited for your particular situation.
Mouth Splint, Oral Splint, Occlusal Splint or Bite Plate
No matter the name, the treatment is the same: a device made of hard plastic designed to relax your jaw in such a manner that it prevents the upper and lower teeth in the rear of the mouth from coming into contact .
Mandibular Advancement Devices (MADs)
Devised specifically to treat conditions related to snoring like sleep apnea, MADs can also help some people to stop grinding their teeth at night. The main problem is that the construction design forces the jaw to just forward and is almost certainly the least comfortable option.
Physiological causes of bruxism may require more sophisticated orthodontic adjustments. These adjustments can range from appliances designed to readjust alignment of specific teeth to installing crowns to oral surgery.
Dental Night Guard
A night guard for teeth grinding is the preferred means of treatment in most cases. A dental guard is constructed from plastic material that ranges from soft to hard depending on the severity of your grinding. The night guard can be fitted over either the upper or lower teeth and essentially serves as a shock absorber to reduce the impact of force caused by your clenching jaw. Night guards are very effective at preventing your teeth from grinding against each other.
You can buy a one-size-fits-most night guard at many drug stores. While those generic version will save you money over a visit to the dentist or a dental lab to sit for a molding to create a custom night guard, the long term cost is not likely to be the bargain it may seem. A custom night guard for teeth grinding created from biting down on a molding to create a plastic recreation of the exact definitions of your bite can is going to be infinitely more successful at preventing the grinding than one massive produced to fit a standardized estimation.
Far more important than which particular treatment you choose is the fact that you should seek treatment for bruxism. Even if your symptoms are not severe, the potential for long-term damage if left untreated can range from receding gum to tooth loss to Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ).