Many people clench or grind their teeth to the point of destructiveness. Most people are completely unaware that they do it, because often they do it while they sleep. Partially because patients don’t know they grind their teeth and also because the thought of wearing a night guard is pretty unappealing, I often get asked, “Do I really need a night guard?”
After all, night guards are not the sexiest thing in the world. If you want a good laugh about it, just check out when Tina Fey in the film “Date Night” is asked by her husband, played by actor Steve Carell, if the evening might include some intimacy… and she takes out her night guard to consider the idea. The image makes any dentist cringe- if you’ve seen it, you know what I mean. If not, take two minutes and watch here. No wonder my patients almost always ask if there isn’t some other option aside from a night guard to keep them from grinding their teeth!
What Happens If I Grind My Teeth and Don’t Wear a Night Guard?
Bruxism (pronounced BRUK-sizm) is the medical term for forceful clenching and/or grinding of your teeth. It is considered a major cause of tooth problems. Some patients will say that they notice signs of wear, but it is not just a cosmetic problem (although worn down teeth can age you as bad if not worse than wrinkled skin).
The action of grinding- where your upper and lower teeth move back and forth with great force against each other- causes your teeth to flatten. Allowed to persist, grinding causes temperature sensitivity, pain because the wear gets down to the nerve, cracks in the teeth, receding gums and eventually lost teeth. To fix these, patients will need crowns, bridges, veneers, implants, extractions, & root canals. Grinding can also cause migraine headaches and pain in the shoulders, neck, back and ears.
There Has to be a Way to Stop Grinding Instead of Wearing a Night Guard
Unfortunately, there really is no “cure” for bruxism. According to The Bruxism Association based in the UK, although other treatments such as biofeedback hypnosis, and even botox has been tried to help with teeth grinding, research has shown the most effective treatment to date to be night guards.
Why is the Night Guard so Expensive? Can’t I Get One at My Local Drugstore?
Night guards that you can buy at the drug store are not custom fitted, they are either stock night guard or boil & bites. They are usually large, unattractive, poorly fitting and may even come out during the grinding. A dentist will take into account your specific situation. Depending on what your grinding pattern is, you may only need a smaller night guard that fits over just your six front teeth or you may need more full coverage. You dentist’s office will take impressions of your teeth so that the dental lab can make a night guard that is the exact match to your teeth.
While getting a night guard from your dentist will likely cost several hundred dollars, it can be an extremely worthwhile investment in the long run. Because it is designed by your dentist to fit your teeth exactly, it is much more likely than a store bought guard to prevent you from needing more expensive dental work in the future. Also, in many case, dental insurance covers all or part of the cost.
Don’t Let it Gather Dust on Your Nightstand
In my experience, I have seen a significant reduction in tooth wear and tear after providing my patients with a night guard. However, getting a night guard is only half the solution- you have to wear it! If the night guard sits in a case covered with dust on your night stand, it’s not helping. There are also times when patients want to comply, but find themselves taking the night guard out in their sleep. Usually I can work with them on fit and type to alleviate this problem.
If you have noticed wear and tear on your teeth, are experiencing any symptoms that you suspect might be from grinding your teeth… or if your spouse has to wear earplugs at night because of the noise….. Don’t be surprised if your dentist says that you should be wearing a night guard. It may not be sexy, but it’s much sexier than missing teeth.