Because they are so effective, patients love their night guards!
Night guards are acrylic trays that precisely mold to your teeth, either on the upper or lower arch. The tray is thick and hard and flat. This design triggers nerve cells that are found along the root surfaces of your teeth that normally detect unusual or hard objects in your mouth and cause you mouth to open. The response is subconscious, meaning the jaw opening occurs without conscious thought. A good example of this occurs when you are eating ice cream and your teeth bite down of the end of the spoon. The teeth immediately separate before you are even aware of what exactly has happened. When worn at night, these trays prevent you from grinding or clinching your teeth, even when you are sound asleep.
CLINCHING AND GRINDING is usually a habit that develops as stress relief. It most often happens at night when you are asleep, and thus unconscious and unaware. During the day, grinding is most often noticed in conjunction with stress-evoking events such as driving in traffic, preparing for and exam or work project or trying to get the kids to stop throwing shoes during dinner.
OCCUSAL WEAR occurs when the teeth rub each other when you grind. The result is that the enamel is worn off the teeth where the contact is made. The effect is so powerful that the hard enamel can be completely ground off, exposing the softer dentine underneath. The tooth damage cannot easily be restored because the space between the jaws closes down. Gum disease often accompanies grinding.
THE TMJ JOINTS that move the lower jaw are a “ball and socket” type joint. When the joints become irritated due to, for instance, constant clenching or grinding at night, the joint space fills with fluid, which is a form of arthritis. Opening and closing with fluid on the joints sounds like the noise you get when you pour milk over Rice Krispies, a crackling sound called crepitus. Clicking or popping sounds in the joint indicate that the inflammation or fluid in the joints is forcing the ball out of the joint, which is a partial joint dislocation.
As THE FACIAL MUSCLES strain to clinch or grind at night, they develop a type of trismus, which is like a muscle cramp. The strain on the muscles inhibits restful sleep and can result in headaches or facial pain in the morning when you awake.
A night guard, when fitted properly, will eliminate the habit of clinching/grinding and prevent the symptoms associated with the habit. Get healthy and keep your gorgeous smile by stopping the habits that could damage your mouth.
Dr. Jeff Turner is a Cosmetic and Family dentist. He and his fabulous staff can help you to have a healthy, pain-free mouth for life! Dr. Turner is located in Aliso Viejo across the street from the Aliso Viejo Library. For more information or to request a complimentary consultation, visit us at: TurnerDentalCare.com.