If you find yourself waking up with a sore jaw or with tooth pain, you might be grinding your teeth unknowingly throughout the night. It’s not uncommon to wake up with a minor headache for those suffering from bruxism, or teeth grinding. Stop the night-time teeth grinding with a fitted night guard.

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What is bruxism?

Bruxism is essentially a condition in which an individual grinds or clenches their teeth during sleep. According to the American Dental Association, some 30 million to 40 million children and adults are affected by bruxism. The severity of bruxism in an individual can change over time. Around 15 percent of children grind their teeth, but that number drops to just three percent in the elderly population.

Signs and symptoms include obvious grinding sounds at night, contractions of the jaw (in rhythmic form), tight or painful jaw muscles, occasional swelling on either side of the lower jaw, recurring headaches, and/or long-lasting pain. There is no one cause of bruxism. People might grind their teeth as a result of crooked teeth, an abnormal bite, and even high stress.

Do I need a night guard?

While there are several treatments available to alleviate or treat bruxism, a night guard is the most common solution. These devices are worn through the night while sleeping, and they don’t require a prescription at most pharmacies for the most affordable models. These over-the-counter (OTC) night guards need to be molded to fit an individual’s bite. To do this, the mouth guard is boiled in water and then cooled for a few seconds. To fit your OTC night guard simply bite gently into the mold to shape it.

Night guards are also available through your dentist. These are generally boast a higher quality and better fit. Your dentist will take a mold of your mouth and custom-design a night guard to carefully fit the impression of your mouth. While this option may be more expensive, it will likely be more comfortable to wear and longer-lasting.

What other treatments are available for bruxism?

If you find a night guard to be too uncomfortable or inconvenient for daily night-time use, there are a few other options to consider. Discuss these options with your dentist to find a solution that is best for you. Treatments for alleviating symptoms of teeth grinding, like tooth pain and soreness, include:

  • Exercise and massages. Before you go to bed and as soon as you wake, try doing some facial exercises to relax the jaw. Massaging the area around your jaw muscles, as well as your neck, may help to relieve tension.
  • Muscle relaxants. Medications to relax your muscles may come in handy if you feel your bruxism is more severe than usual. However, use them sparingly as drug overuse with muscle relaxants can be dangerous.
  • Warm water. Just like a washcloth with warm water helps ease a teething baby’s gum pain, the washcloth may benefit you, too. Gently dab and massage a washcloth with warm water around your jaw and inside your mouth along the gums to find some relief from morning soreness.

Treatments for reducing symptoms and getting rid of teeth grinding include:

  • Correcting malocclusion. Individuals who have crooked teeth or a misaligned jaw are at higher risk for developing bruxism. Treating this root cause can prevent that annoying and painful teeth grinding and clenching. Your orthodontist may recommend corrective measures such as braces if malocclusion is to blame for your bruxism.
  • Reducing stress. Some studies claim that up to 70 percent of individuals with bruxism were triggered by stress and anxiety. It’s not unusual to see highly stressed individuals develop nervous and repetitive habits to relieve tension. Your dentist might advise you to engage in some stress-relieving activities and practices. This includes drinking more water and getting a sufficient amount of rest. Meditation, exercise, and even professional counseling can be excellent tools for reducing stress.
  • Change your diet or medications. The side effects of some medications – like antidepressants – include the development of bruxism. Be sure to communicate to your dentist all the medications you are taking. Switching your medication prescription may be a simple solution to your night-time teeth grinding. If you tend to consume stimulating drinks that are high in caffeine, you may want to avoid these for a while to determine if they are the cause of your bruxism.

If your loved one is complaining of teeth grinding sounds, or if you’re waking up with a sore jaw and a headache, you might be suffering from bruxism. Little Heroes Dentistry offers cosmetic dentistry options like mouth guards to alleviate and treat signs and symptoms of bruxism. Call us today to make an appointment at 956.568.6690.

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