The temporomandibular joints attach the jawbone to the skull on each side and facilitate articulation. TMJ dysfunction—which is often abbreviated TMD and sometimes TMJD—is an umbrella condition that can be characterized by pain, restricted movement, or noises created through jaw use.
Many people are affected by bruxism and, in particular, nocturnal bruxism. People with nocturnal bruxism will clench their jaws as well as grind their teeth while they sleep. It is estimated that as many as 8 percent of adults are affected, and it leads to many TMJ-related symptoms: jaw stiffness and soreness, headaches, neck and shoulder pain, sensitive or even painful teeth, and so forth. In such cases, a dentist will often recommend a night guard in order to protect the teeth and jaw.
Teeth grinding can have many causes but is most often associated with stress and anxiety, and you are more prone to grinding your teeth while you sleep when under a great deal of stress. Over-the-counter night guards are available, but the generic nature of these products means a suboptimal fit and a shorter lifespan and thus greater long-term costs. A night guard made by your dentist is personalized to your mouth. It will fit optimally over your upper and lower teeth. If you snore or have sleep apnea, it can also be designed to keep the jaw and tongue forward and thus your airway open. In all cases, wearing a night guard provides many benefits not just for your oral health but your overall health too.
- Protection for Your Teeth and Gums – Clenching your teeth and grinding them against each other causes unnecessary wear and tear. This wear accumulates over time. You lose enamel. Your teeth can become sensitive to cold, hot, and sweet. The chewing surface of the teeth becomes less effective, and the teeth actually shorten. You can experience chips and cracks, and over time, the structure of the tooth will become compromised. Grinding your teeth also makes you more susceptible to gum recession. Wearing a night guard avoids all of this wear and, combined with good oral hygiene, makes you much less prone to gum disease and tooth decay.
- Reduce TMJ Tension and Discomfort – Clenching of the jaw is what leads to most TMD symptoms. It creates stress in the TMJ, which can lead to reduced mobility and muscle aches that extend beyond the TMJ to other parts of your body. Your bruxism can also be caused by a misaligned jaw or other TMJ issues, and this can create a nasty cycle in which each underlying issue continues to trigger and exacerbate the other. A custom-fit night guard essentially provides a cushion between your upper and lower teeth. Not only can a guard reduce the frequency of the clenching, but it can absorb and distribute the force generated when it does happen.
- Avoid Headaches and Other Aches – Aches can extend beyond your TMJ because the stress being caused has a ripple effect. Frequent headaches, especially in the morning, are a common symptom of sleep bruxism. You can also experience toothaches, earaches, and discomfort all over the general face area. Stress can accumulate in the neck, the shoulders, and even the upper to mid back. A person who has unwittingly lived with nocturnal bruxism is often amazed at how better they feel upon waking when wearing a night guard.
- Healthier Sleep Patterns – Another reason that people feel better when they wake is because they sleep better. Many people with bruxism experience chronic fatigue because the clenching and grinding disrupts achieving and maintaining a deep sleep. Regularly enjoying a full night of rest can have a transformative effect on your overall health. It can make the grinding and clenching less frequent, and it can make you less susceptible to stress as well as jaw pain, headaches, earaches, neck and shoulder pain, and so forth.
- Stop Snoring – Often, snoring is not a symptom of a more serious condition, but it is still problematic because it can disrupt your sleep as well as disrupt the sleep of your bed partner. Sometimes, the clenching of the jaw alone is enough to disrupt breathing and cause snoring. Even a basic custom-fit night guard keeps your upper and lower jaw from touching and makes snoring less likely. If you snore due to improper positioning of your jaw or tongue, your dentist can design an oral appliance specifically for that.
- More Affordable Oral Care – Not only is a custom-fit oral appliance relatively inexpensive, but it can last you many years. Wearing a night guard also protects you from unnecessary dental expenses. If your night bruxism goes untreated, you will eventually experience dental damage and even tooth loss. Damaged and missing teeth can be quite expensive to fix, and you may have to be treated for gum disease and tooth decay as well. Better sleep also results in more energy and less susceptibility to peaks and valleys, which means that you will be better prepared to succeed in your career and all of your other endeavors.
Generic vs. Custom-Fit Night Guards
Most local pharmacies sell generic night guards over the counter. These products may seem more affordable since the initial cost is certainly lower, but there is a reason these items are often sold in multipacks: they are not expected to last. You can buy various sizes—such as small, medium, and large—but the mouthpiece will not be fitted to you. That means that it is less capable of distributing the force from the grinding and clenching, and the product will quickly wear and become unusable.
A professionally molded night guard is made by your dentist specific to your mouth. Dentists now have advanced tools to create three-dimensional digital models, which means messy impressions are no longer required. Leading dentists have on-site labs and are able to design and manufacture night guards in a single visit. Since the guard is fit to your mouth, it is much more comfortable to wear, which means that the acclimation period will be faster and more seamless, and custom guards can last up to 10 years.
Sleep Better and Wake Up Feeling Great
If you need a night guard, Jeffrey D. Clark, DDS, will mold it specifically for you. An optimal fit ensures that the jaw is in its natural position, which will reduce TMJ discomfort, headaches, and more. Better yet, a relaxed jaw will result not just in a better night’s sleep but healthier sleep patterns overall, which will benefit your health now and over the course of your life. Call Scottsdale Dental Excellence at 480 585 1853 to visit with Dr. Clark and have your custom-fit night guard made.