Chronic jaw clenching and grinding one’s teeth is called bruxism. While it can happen any time of day, it often occurs at night causing an individual to wake up with any number of symptoms including jaw pain, headaches, and sore teeth that may feel loose. Although, stress and anxiety are the most common causes of bruxism there may be other contributing factors such as obstructive sleep apnea or side effects of some medications, i.e. antidepressants.
To alleviate the symptoms of bruxism, wearing a night guard while sleeping is frequently recommended. This appliance is designed to fit over the teeth and to keep the jaws slightly apart. Wearing a night guard prevents a number of damaging events, including muscle strain, excessive pressure on the jaw joint (the TMJ), and such dental damage as chipped or cracked teeth resulting from the teeth grinding against each other. For those who grind their teeth excessively, If a night guard is not worn, teeth will be worn-down severely and a full mouth rehabilitation would be necessary to restore function and esthetics, which may involve dental crowns and root canal therapy on all or most teeth.
In addition to preventing damage to the soft and hard tissues surrounding the orofacial cavity, a custom night guard fabricated at the dental office can help curb a bruxism habit and give the wearer a better night’s sleep.