Bruxism is a condition in which you grind, clench or gnash your teeth. Bruxism and clenching are the most common oral habits, and may occur to some degree in over 80% of the population. Most people subconsciously grind their teeth at night or when they are deep in thought. The normal forces of chewing usually range from 5 to 44 pounds per square inch (psi) for natural teeth. For example, a force of 21 psi is needed to chew meat, and 28 psi to chew a raw carrot. The forces of bruxism can produce loads on the teeth that exceed 500 psi.
There are many causes of bruxism such as stress, tooth alignment/bite, and medication.
While the damage from bruxism is not immediate, over the months and years, the damage from clenching and grinding can be significant. Think of what would happen if you took the oil out of your car and drove it around the block once a night. The damage would not be immediate, but over time it would begin to effect how the car functions.
- flatten teeth, fracture teeth, fracture fillings,
- cause chipping of the enamel on teeth near the gum line
- cause tooth sensitivity,
- cause headaches, earaches, pain in the jaw, neck and shoulders,
- cause bone loss around the teeth resulting in loose teeth,
- cause the jaw to lock.
You can’t just stop grinding by telling yourself to do so, but you can protect your teeth and jaw joint from the harmful effects of grinding and clenching by wearing a custom fit night guard. A night guard is made of material that is softer than teeth, so when grinding, the night guard is worn down, and the teeth are protected.
A night guard can be made from different materials and is made to fit on the upper or lower teeth. Your dentist will decide what type of material and what type of night guard is best for you. Store bought generic night guards are not recommended as they are not custom fit to your bite and could actually cause more damage to your jaw joint.
To make a custom fit night guard, dental impressions and a bite registration are taken and sent to a lab which then fabricates a night guard to fit perfectly over the teeth. About a week later, a second appointment is required to deliver the appliance. While night guards do take a little bit of time for some people to become accustomed to, most people find they sleep much better with them, than without them.
Join our next blog to discover how to care for your night guard.