Teeth Grinding & Clenching

San Antonio Dental Office

Nightime Teeth Grinding? Daytime Clencher?

Teeth Grinding (Bruxism) and Clenching cause lots of problems. In particular, they cause tooth pain, jaw pain, jaw joint pain and even facial pain. As a result, some people wake up with their teeth or face aching and sore. Still others find themselves with cheek muscles as hard as cement and teeth feeling “glued” together.

So I’m a Tooth Grinder/Clencher. It’s Not My Fault!

These “habits” feel out of our control. Does anyone choose to grind their teeth at night? Habits like these can make us feel helpless. Not surprisingly, we can’t stop them easily because underlying health factors that we’re not aware of cause them. In other words, when we grind and clench our teeth, our body is telling us something is wrong.

Nighttime teeth grinding (bruxism) and clenching.

Grinding and Clenching are Warning Signs… Of What?

In the first place, Teeth Grinding and Clenching at night is surprisingly a frequent sign of sleep disordered breathing. Sleep disordered breathing can include sleep apnea and upper airway resistance syndrome.

In the second place, teeth grinding and clenching can also be signs of stressors. For instance, this includes health stresses such as hormonal issues, jaw problems and an imbalanced bite. In addition, it includes internalized stress which frequently results in daytime clenching.

What If I Can’t Figure Why I Grind or Clench my Teeth?

For some people, the underlying cause of the teeth grinding and clenching never reveals itself. Obviously people are happy to hear they don’t have sleep disorder, but that doesn’t save them from the damage of teeth grinding and clenching. Therefore, treating the grinding and clenching will protect both their teeth and their health. (Read more about Bruxism on Mayo Clinic’s site.)

What’s Wrong with Grinding and Clenching?

Teeth Grinding and Clenching cause lots of problems. They particularly create problems for the mouth and face.

Jaw Problems

In the first place, they put particularly unhealthy strain on the jaw joint. Jaw joint strain eventually leads to TMD, as well as headaches and facial pain.

Tooth Problems

In addition to increased TMD risk, grinding wears teeth down and weakens them. This increases the risk for cracked and broken teeth, as well as toothaches.

Nerve Problems

Not only does grinding and clenching increase risk for TMD and broken teeth, but the constant extra pressure also inflames the nerves of the teeth and jaw. This leads to shooting pain, sensitivity and chronic nerve damage.

Bone & Gum Problems

Furthermore, the constant pressure also contributes to bone loss and recession. As a result, it raises the risk of gum disease, bone infections and tooth loss.

Cosmetic Problems

What’s more, grinding and clenching change face shape. Because these habits cause overuse of the cheek and jaw muscles, those muscles thicken and bulge. This re-shape the face to look rounder as bulgy cheek muscles stick out under the cheek bones.

In summary, grinding and clenching cause significantly more dental and facial problems than people ever realize.

How Do I Stop Grinding or Clenching my Teeth?

Treating Grinding and Clenching

Treatment for teeth grinding and clenching generally starts with a custom bite splint. Initially, this splint help calm facial muscles so that they relax and “forget” to grind or clench. Surprisingly, bite splints may be used both to help diagnose and to treat grinding and clenching. In some cases, medical screenings are also needed to insure an effective treatment plan.

Why Do Bite Splints Work?

Bite splints work because they employ principles from orthopedic medicine. As a result, they reduce or completely eliminate grinding and clenching. In this process, they also protect the teeth.

Bite splints not only treat they also protect. In effect, they prevent both joint damage and tooth wear, as well as so many of other complications of grinding and clenching.

night guard stops teeth grinding and clenching effects on your teeth

A Bite Splint? But I Grind Through Nightguards!

So, you grind through nightguards? Not surprised.

For that matter, you may be able to grind down rocks. Our jaws are undeniably strong and it’s not surprising that we can grind through plastic nightguards. Nightguards and bite splints look similar. However, the difference is that they are never made with same type of materials or the same design. Bite splints are custom designed to match each patient’s needs. In fact, they are made from extra strength materials in a custom thickness with a personalized design for each mouth.

Because of how the average nightguard is made, I would expect any patient with severe teeth grinding to buzz right through one. In contrast with a bite splint that helps because it is customized to deactivate the grinding and clenching muscles.

Muscles are like toddlers

Hyperactive muscles “activate” or start pushing when they sense something to push against. Basically like your average toddler.

Deactivating muscles so that they can relax requires constructing a bite splint that only provides a pushing surface for teeth that aren’t connected to the hyperactive pushing muscles. In other words, bite splints put hyperactive muscles in time out.

So I’ll never, ever wear through a bite splint?

We can’t promise never, ever. However, we can promise less. Figuring out which muscles are hyperactive and how to calm them down can take several appointments. Sometimes it also takes several splints. It is important to realize that finding the best material and figuring out teeth need less pressure is a process that takes time. In addition, the most severe teeth grinding patients will still occasionally wear through splints no matter what splint design or material their dentist has chosen for them. However, even then the bite splint will reduce the frequency of replacement will always be more affordable than replacing broken teeth!

Teeth grinding can cause TMJ pain.

My Storebought Nightguard Messed Up My Teeth!

Did you know that some stores sell kits to make your own nightguard for as little as $1?

Yep, that’s just $1. Buyer beware!

Before you run out and buy one, you need to know that these homemade nightguards can cause damage. We have had patients come in crying because they got “what they paid for” as well as more trouble than they ever could have bargained for.

Why do these DIY nightguards cause dental problems?

In the first place, you can feel the inside of your mouth, but you can’t see it all easily. Without a complete exam, it’s impossible to design a custom nightguard or to evaluate on.

In the second place, no kit comes with all the tools to customize thickness and surface design. Without a customized design, the nightguard won’t distribute force evenly across all the teeth. That causes changes in the bite. Teeth with more pressure get sensitive and can get intruded. Furthermore, teeth with less pressure can actually start getting longer. Uh-oh…

More importantly, many of these cheap DIY nightguards don’t even cover all of the teeth. When something sits on the teeth, it creates pressure. The teeth under the plastic have more pressure and stay the same or get shorter. In time, the teeth with no nightguard coverage, start to get longer. Not only do these tooth movements make the teeth uneven, but they also look strange. Uneven teeth also cause jaw problems, toothaches and broken teeth.

How Is One from Our Office Different?

When Dr. Bec designs a Teeth Grinding Bite Splint, he custom designs it fit your teeth and match your mouth. This protects your teeth from uneven pressure and prevents harmful tooth movements.

Think you’ve found a great product?

Without a doubt, we all find deals on dental products, especially online. Some of these are safe and others are dangerous. If you think you’ve found something to help your problem, feel free to bring it in and show us. We’ll be happy to take a look at it and help you figure out if it’s safe.

Meet Patricia:

“I have been a “Teeth Grinding Person” all my life, but I’d never felt like it was a big deal. It was just something I did.. until the pain started.

When I arrived in Dr. Bec’s office, I’d been in pain for 8 months.

At first it only hurt every once in a while. My teeth would hurt, but then the pain would go away. Every time it hurt, I was afraid I needed another root canal. But then it would stop hurting.

Eventually the pain was constant, all the time, every day.

I knew I needed to go in for help, but I couldn’t tell which tooth was causing the problem so I kept trying to figure it out. One whole section of my mouth hurt. Sometimes the top teeth hurt. Other times both the top teeth and the bottom teeth ached. Sometimes the pain was more towards the back of my mouth and then it would be more toward the front.

I finally decided I couldn’t stand it any more.

Eventually, the pain had changed my life and not in a good way. I couldn’t drink or eat anything hot on that side. I love my hot coffee, but I was stuck drinking lukewarm coffee or none at all to avoid the jolts of pain. It was so miserable! The teeth grinding pain was waking me up at night. In fact, I was getting up in the middle of the night to take Advil just to be able to sleep. I could only chew on one side. Without a doubt, I was afraid this was going to be my new normal. It was awful!

Dr. Bec had helped my daughter fix her jaw pain and headaches.

She said that I should go see him for my pain. When I made it to see Dr. Bec, he told me that my pain wasn’t a tooth problem at all. Here I thought I needed root canals and he said that my pain was being caused by an imbalanced bite and teeth grinding habit. He said that he could try to fix it with an occlusal splint. It sounded kind of crazy, but it FIXED MY PAIN!!

It was like a miracle!

It’s crazy that it works! After the first night, the pain was already getting better. Then after a week, the pain was gone—totally and completely gone! I can eat whatever I want on either side of my mouth. Even better, I can drink hot, hot coffee all day long with no pain. I’m sleeping at night—no more waking up to take Advil. It is amazing! Thank you, Dr. Bec!!!”

– Patricia S., custom nightguard patient

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