Have you noticed that your jaw feels a bit more sensitive lately? – or maybe you’re experiencing frequent headaches, which never seemed to be a problem in the past… if this is the case for you, it may be related to a condition called bruxism.
Simply put, bruxism is a condition that occurs when you frequently grind or clench your teeth. Now you may be thinking, “that isn’t me, I would know if I am grinding or clenching my teeth” – however, teeth grinding is something that occurs far too frequently while we sleep vs when we are awake. Grinding or clenching your teeth while awake is referred to as “awake bruxism”, while “sleep bruxism” is one of those conditions that feels seemingly out of our control. In fact, there is no known cure for sleep bruxism considering it is an unconscious act, however, we can trace this pattern back to a common root cause – stress.
Yes, that’s right – one of the main causes of bruxism is stress. So as you can guess, cases of bruxism are more common as we age and begin experiencing stress factors such as finances, poor health and grief. Since COVID-19 alone, teeth grinding and clenching have become even more common in the United States, with a recent study showing an increase from 10% to 36% just since the pandemic.
So if there is no cure, how can you put a stop to the frequent headaches and jaw pain? While battling awake bruxism is going to take more of a cognitive act within yourself, the effects of sleep bruxism can be treated with a nightguard. A nightguard is a retainer-like plastic appliance that can be hard or soft. Since bruxism is a common pain point for many individuals, you can find nightguards at many local stores, pharmacies and of course, Amazon. For those of you looking for a more personalized approach, many dentists including Wellspring Dental can make a custom nightguard for you, ensuring you have a perfect fit.
Benefits of wearing a nightguard
It’s important to know – while avoiding headaches and jaw pain caused by bruxism is a large benefit of wearing nightguards, one of the biggest problems associated with teeth grinding and clenching is the wear and tear on your teeth. While this may be a tough visual, picture a nail file – when rubbed back and forth on your fingernail, over time, the nail is going to wear down. This is what happens with frequent teeth grinding. As you grind and clench your teeth each night while you sleep, eventually your teeth are going to wear down, become weak and may even crack. For this reason alone, if you are a night grinder, we highly encourage looking into a nightguard asap.
What other benefits come with wearing a nightguard? Well, aside from the protection, custom nightguards can help to maintain the position of your smile. Since custom nightguards are made to fit your teeth perfectly, this helps in retaining the alignment of your current smile, avoiding any teeth shifting in the future.
Outside of a nightguard, one way to avoid teeth grinding and teeth clenching is to avoid stress. Now, we realize that is easier said than done, but being conscientious of how stress impacts your body is a great place to start when looking for ways to feel better. If you are worried that you may be experiencing bruxism, we encourage you to contact your dentist – or the Wellspring Dental team to get clarity on the next best steps for you!