Ouch. You just woke up and your jaw is aching — but this isn’t the first time. The dull, throbbing pain in your mouth has been your morning wake-up call for weeks.
You know something’s going on while you’re sleeping, but you’re not sure what. Are you grinding your teeth? Clenching your jaw? And if so, do you need a dental night guard?
The first step to answering these questions is to schedule an appointment with your family dentist. He or she will ask you about your symptoms, examine your teeth and jaw, and determine whether you are clenching or grinding your teeth as you sleep.
The most common signs and symptoms of bruxism (teeth grinding and clenching) are:
- Facial pain
- Fatigue from lack of sleep
- Jaw soreness
- Waking up with dull headaches
In long-term, severe cases, grinding and clenching can cause:
- Broken teeth
- Loss of teeth
- Loss of tooth enamel
Why Do You Grind Your Teeth?
Bruxism is common. In fact, it affects between 30 to 40 million Americans. If you find yourself grinding or clenching your teeth (and waking up in pain), it may be caused by:
- Heavy drinking
- Misaligned bite
- Sleep apnea
- Type-A personality
- Underlying medical conditions
Understanding the cause of your teeth grinding is one factor in eliminating this unconscious habit and reducing your pain (in some cases). For example, you may be able to quit smoking or reduce your daytime stress, but you can’t do anything about genetics or having a Type-A personality. Another thing you can control to help prevent and avoid bruxism is to wear a night guard.
Also known as mouth guards, night guards are worn while you sleep and help protect your teeth and jaw. Other benefits of wearing a night guard include:
- Improving sleep apnea
- Preventing headaches
- Preventing snoring
- Preventing tooth damage
- Promoting healthy sleep
- Protects your gums from receding
- Reducing jaw tension and pain
- Saving money in the long-term
Finding the Right Night Guard
Your dentist can help determine the type of night guard that will work best for you. For example, there are soft night guards (the most common type used), dual laminate night guards, and hard night guards. Ask your dentist about the pros and cons for each.
No matter which type you choose, make sure to stick with it for 4 to 6 weeks in order to experience the benefits. Start with the thinnest, most comfortable night guard at first, if possible. And don’t put it on until you’re ready to fall asleep. You’re more likely to stick with the habit of wearing it if it’s not uncomfortable or inconvenient.
Your teeth impact so many areas of health — not just the mouth. By now you know that teeth grinding and clenching can impact the quality of your sleep and the way you feel the following day. Would you rather wake up feeling achy and sleep deprived, or pain-free and refreshed? For teeth grinders, a night guard can make all the difference.
Family Dentistry and Emergency Dentistry in Columbus Ohio
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