Do you ever awaken with a sore jaw? This affects more people than you may realize. Bruxism is better known as ‘grinding your teeth at night, and this pretty much sums up the condition. If left untreated, bruxism can cause dental damage, as well as damage to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ): the joint that connects your lower jaw with your skull. How can we treat it? That’s where dental mouthguards come in.
Dental mouthguards help to soothe the pain by protecting teeth and joints. If you suspect you may have bruxism, you should speak to your dentist about using a dental mouthguard.
Here’s how you can find the right one for you.
Understand the root cause (or lack thereof)
Teeth-grinding or jaw-clenching is an involuntary response from the central nervous system. It can happen due to anxiety, stress, use of antidepressants, or use of tobacco or alcohol.
Sometimes it happens for no reason at all. Whatever the cause, it’s important to understand that it’s behavior beyond your control. It’s not something you can adjust with cognitive therapy or the like.
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Invest in a mouthguard
The good news is that a dental mouthguard is an easy fix. Well, it won’t ‘fix the problem per se, but it will provide the protection you need to help preserve your pearly whites. (This is not to be confused with an athletic mouthguard worn to protect teeth during contact sports.)
There are two kinds of mouthguards, and they are:
Exactly what it says on the tin: you can buy these over the counter at sports stores or pharmacies. Like any Macca’s Coke, they sometimes come in varieties of small, medium, and large.
Other variants ditch the standard sizing method in favor of a more customized approach. If you have a more malleable over-the-counter mouthguard, whack it in hot water. Once it’s heated, bite down on the softened material and feel it mold to your mouth’s shape. Voilà!
Alternatively, go to the dentist and have a tailor-made custom mouthguard for your teeth. Pro: they’re a step up from even the customizable over-the-counter varieties.
Con: they’re a lot more expensive. Circling back to a possible pro: you may be able to get it covered with dental insurance. There’s some food for thought.
Weigh up your options
You may be wondering why you should cough up the extra cash for a custom mouthguard if there are much cheaper options that are also customizable.
It comes back to this: whilst an over-the-counter option will provide relief, it’s still not a professional fit. The custom mouthguard is more expensive for a reason.
Whilst the over-the-counter option will protect your teeth, it won’t necessarily meet up with your natural bite. And aligning the mouthguard to your bite will resolve the issues beyond the surface.
Without professional adjustment, your muscles may not respond the way they need to. This means zero resolution to your existing jaw pain—in fact, it may well exacerbate it.
With professional adjustment, you can align your teeth in a more comfortable and natural way. Custom mouthguards not only protect teeth, but also reconcile the relationship between the bite, the TMJ, and the jaw muscles.
Know what to expect
Mouthguards are usually worn over the top teeth, but there are some variants that fit along the bottom row, too. If you opt for an over-the-counter option, it will likely be made from a softer material.
Custom mouthguards, on the other hand, are usually made from resin: a much harder (and more durable) material.
If you have bruxism, chances are you’ll only need to wear your mouthguard at night. However, if you have more serious TMJ disorders, you may need to wear them during the day, as well.
How to care for your mouthguard
If you’ve decided to invest in a mouthguard, you’ll need to maintain it. Think of it as an extension of your teeth: you’ll need to brush it with toothpaste. Also, use antibacterial soap, and ensure you clean it as soon as it leaves your mouth.
Wait to clean it in the evening and you can expect tartar to build up. (Pro tip: this is what happens to our teeth, too, when left uncleaned.)
When attending a dental appointment, bring your mouthguard with you. To ensure you’re getting the most out of it, your dentist can review it and make any necessary adjustments. They can also perform a full clean using an ultrasonic machine.
Also Read: Dental Veneers: Cost, Procedure, and Results
Should you use a dental mouthguard for your jaw pain?
Bruxism is one of the most common sleep disorders, but it can also be a cause for concern when your teeth are at risk. A mouth guard might help you reduce the severity of your bruxism and keep your teeth in better condition.
If you think that this may apply to you, contact your dentist so you can discuss your options and protect yourself from dental damage!