If you frequently wake up with a sore jaw, a dull headache or tooth pain, you may want to ask a qualified dental professional if you are suffering from a condition called bruxism. Bruxism, or teeth grinding, affects about 10 to 15 percent of adults, according to the American Dental Association.
There are several ways to alleviate the effects of bruxism. One of the most common, which your dentist may recommend, is a night guard. This is an appliance typically worn while sleeping through the night, which is available without a prescription at most pharmacies. To use the appliance, you simply boil it, let it cool for a few seconds and then gently bite into it to shape it to your own teeth.
Night guards are also available through your dentist. Guards of this type tend to be of a higher quality and superior fit, as they are made in a special laboratory from an impression of your mouth carefully taken by a dental professional. This is generally a more expensive device than one purchased over-the-counter, but can be more comfortable to wear.
Regardless of where a night guard is purchased, its main function is to prevent the surfaces of your teeth from grinding together, causing you to chip and crack your teeth and strain your jaw muscles.
Other Treatments for Teeth Grinding
If a night guard is uncomfortable, there are other possible treatments listed below that you can ask your dentist about.
- Teeth straightening: Teeth that are out of alignment–what dentists call malocclusion–can contribute to teeth grinding. This can be remedied by corrective measures such as braces.
- Stress prevention: One of the main causes of bruxism is anxiety, so your dentist might advise you to utilize one or more at-home methods of relaxation, like meditation, or in some cases professional counseling, to get you to relax and stop clenching your jaw.
- Change of diet or medication: Your dentist might recommend avoiding stimulants, such as caffeine, to reduce teeth grinding. Certain medications, such as antidepressants, might also contribute to the issue, so make sure you tell your dentist about any medications you are taking so he can suggest an alternative if one is warranted.
The most important thing to know about bruxism is that it can be treated with the help of a dentist.