Don't Let Teeth Grinding Ruin Your Teeth

Stress Levels & Cracked Teeth Are on the Rise. But a Night Guard Could Help!

We’ve seen a lot more people lately with damaged teeth associated with teeth grinding and clenching. According to recent studies, this seems to be the case throughout the country. Add a year of living with a pandemic to our already stressful, multi-tasking lives and many of us are manifesting this tension on our teeth.

Unfortunately, while our tooth enamel is incredibly strong, it can’t cope with the on-going grinding and clenching of daily stress. This leads to broken, cracked or worn down teeth. Our teeth just aren’t designed to take that kind of force, so something has to give,

How do you diagnose teeth grinding?
Normally Dr. Gilbert can identify the patients who are grinders or clinchers, but in the past year, we’ve had a lot of patients self-diagnose themselves. 

What are the signs of teeth grinding?
There are definitely some tell-tale signs chronic grinding or clenching. Here are some of the signs to diagnose it.

  • Teeth breakage, often in the molars.
  • Unusual wear of tooth enamel for a person’s age.
  • Jaw Pain – often in the TMJ joint, or muscle tenderness.
  • Tension Headaches or Migraines – when you wake up.
  • Tooth Sensitivity – when you drink something hot or cold.

Do patients realize that they grind or clench their teeth?
Teeth grinding often takes place when the patient is asleep, so the patient may be grinding their teeth without knowing it. But many patients will acknowledge that they’re aware of it, waking up during the night and realizing that they’ve been in ‘full clench mode’. Patients will also say that they wake up in the morning with a headache, or with their muscles being very tight in their cheeks and temples.

What solutions do you offer patients for teeth grinding?
While a night guard is the end all solution, the first thing we want to do is make sure that patients are aware that they’re grinding. Even if we decide that a night guard is the appropriate treatment, patients won’t won’t be wearing that night guard all day long. Patients will need to also be mindful  of their clenching or grinding during their waking hours, so that they can train themselves to try and break that habit. At least reduce their grinding. 

What is a night guard and how do they work?
Our night guards are custom made plastic devices that act as a barrier to protect your teeth from grinding or clenching. They are custom made to fit comfortably over your upper or lower teeth. It’s not necessary to do both.

We find that upper night guards are usually easier for people to wear just because their tongue isn’t bothering with it like they do with the lower one. Either one works fine, but the most important thing is to get the night guard to sit over the teeth comfortably, without pushing or torqueing any of the teeth. We want a passive, nice fit that is evenly adjusted so that when the patient bites down on it, their teeth slide off of it. 

Once we’re able to adjust the night guard evenly, it will not only help protect the patient’s teeth, but it can often break the patient’s habit of clenching, because you’re not going to get the satisfaction.

What should patients expect when they start wearing a night guard?
They can expect the first week to usually be a little awkward. We tell patients that for the first couple of nights they’re going to find the night guard on their pillow, because they’ll unconsciously take it out when they sleep. But after a couple of weeks, it becomes like a pacifier. Patients can’t fall asleep at night without it. Some people do tell us that they can’t get into the habit of wearing it, but most patients adapt to them pretty quickly.
Dr. Gilbert’s Tip: Keep your night guard by your bed. I wear one, and I find that if I leave it by my bed every night I don’t have the excuse of having to get up to go to the bathroom to get it.

Don’t let teeth grinding ruin your teeth or your smile. Compared to the price of needing more serious dental treatments down the road from teeth grinding, a night guard is a less expensive option to protect your teeth from yourself.

If you suspect that you grind your teeth, and you think you could benefit from a night guard, please schedule a consultation with your friendly Bellevue dentist – just call us at (425) 957-4700 or request an appointment online!