Tooth grinding or “bruxism” is common in adults and can have negative affects on both teeth and gums. The most common form of bruxism occurs when a patient clenches opposing teeth together and moves them laterally in this position under heavy load. Many patients are unaware that they clench and grind their teeth while unconscious during a night’s sleep. Luckily, there are numerous signs and changes to teeth and gums that alert a dentist that a patient is grinding their teeth. These signs/changes include:
- Wear or attrition of the enamel and flattening of biting surfaces on posterior teeth
- Gum recession and bone loss
- Dental “abfraction” or wear divots/grooves into the tooth root near the gumline
- Clouding of the nerve space or “pulp sclerosis” visible on standard bitewing x-rays
- Periodic unlocalizable sensitivity or pain to chewing and/or throbbing soreness in a span of teeth
- Pain in the muscles around the temples and cheeks that is typically most severe in the morning
- Pain or “ringing” sounds emanating from the jaw joint(s) directly in front of the ear
How can a nightguard (or “bruxism splint”) help?
A nightguard is a horseshoe-shaped piece of clear, hard acrylic that fits over your upper or lower arch of teeth. The nightguard provides a thick layer of acrylic between your teeth. Specifically, it protects opposing teeth from the wear and attrition that occurs when enamel surfaces are in contact during tooth grinding. The nightguard also provides a smooth surface on which your opposing teeth can glide around. This minimizes reactive forces around the jaw joint as you apply pressure while grinding. The smooth surface of the nightguard also minimizes engagement of facial muscles involved in chewing, providing relief from muscle tension and soreness.
What is involved in having a nightguard made?
Having a nightguard fabricated requires 2 short appointments. At your first appointment, we will take dental impressions of your upper and lower teeth. This appointment typically takes 5-10 minutes. The impressions are used by a dental laboratory in the fabrication of your nightguard. This takes them 10-14 days. Patients are typically booked 2 weeks later for the delivery appointment. During this appointment, Dr. Hornby will try in the nightguard to ensure proper fit. He will also make sure that, when biting, your opposing teeth make balanced and even contact on the nightguard. Nightguards should typically be heated in lukewarm water for 30 seconds prior to insert. Avoid using abrasive toothpastes to clean your nightguard as it can prematurely wear down the acrylic surfaces. You should bring your nightguard to all cleaning and checkup appointments so that we can confirm continued proper performance of the appliance.