It is not uncommon for adults and children to grind their teeth at night, or even during the day. Excessive grinding of the teeth is a condition known as bruxism. Studies show that anywhere from 8-31% of the general population suffers from bruxism.
Some symptoms of bruxism include sore jaws, headaches, or sensitive teeth, but sometimes bruxism can continue undetected unless a sleeping partner or parent notices it while a person is sleeping. Signs of bruxism can occur in the mouth, and those would include tooth wear, gum recession, or chipped teeth or restorations.
The most common cause of bruxism is from stress, but sometimes the cause of bruxism is unknown. The best way to treat bruxism is to remove the cause, and if you are grinding your teeth due to stress, removal of the stress will sometimes help stop the bruxism. However, since it can be difficult to remove stress in life, or in cases when the cause of bruxism is unknown, we will oftentimes recommend that our patients have a custom nightguard made for them to wear at night.
A nightguard is similar to a mouthguard, in that they cover the surfaces of your teeth with a plastic-like material. Therefore, when you are grinding at night, you will end up grinding on the plastic instead of your own teeth, which will protect your teeth. Also, because you are not biting down all the way with a nightguard in, this can help relieve your jaw muscles from soreness.
A nightguard will only treat the symptoms of bruxism, which includes protecting your teeth from further wear, and possibly relieving your jaw muscles and jaw joints from soreness. It will not, however, always treat the cause of bruxism, which can be more difficult to treat.
During your routine dental examination, Dr. Chang will take note of any signs of bruxism in your mouth and inform you if she suspects bruxism going on. If needed, she will recommend a nightguard for you to wear. If you do notice that you are grinding at night, please inform Dr. Chang so she can make note of it and suggest proper treatment for your condition.