How Nightguards Preserve Your Smile (and Your Wallet)
Understanding Bruxism’s Impact on Your Smile
Occlusal guards, more commonly known as nightguards, are the most underutilized and most misunderstood devices in dentistry. To truly appreciate their benefits, one must first understand the extensive damage that bruxism, or teeth grinding, can cause.
Wouldn’t I know whether I grind my teeth?
“I don’t grind my teeth. I would know,” is the most common response I hear when I educate a patient on the fact that he or she is grinding. But bruxism is a subconscious habit, so if patients do notice something, it’s usually an uncomfortable symptom such as frequent morning headaches or temporomandibular joint problems. However, the clinical signs of grinding (which we will cover in the next sections) are unmistakable to a dental professional and cannot be attributed to anything else. The best way to know for sure if you are grinding your teeth is to see your dentist for an evaluation.
What are the visible effects of bruxism?
Telltale signs of chronic teeth grinding include gum recession, abfractions, and wear facets. Patients often assume their gum recession is due to aggressive toothbrushing (which is, in fact, one cause of recession) when, in actuality, it is the result of bruxism. Notches at the gumline, known as abfractions, are the direct result of the flexing of the teeth that occurs during chronic grinding and clenching.
The damage leaves those sections of tooth void of enamel and the root surfaces exposed. Gum recession and abfractions are quite problematic because they can lead to tooth sensitivity and root decay. Trauma from persistent grinding can also cause teeth to loosen and shift out of alignment.
Additionally, visible wear facets can appear on front teeth as well as posterior (back) teeth. These are areas where the normally sharp biting edges or cusps have become smooth and flat. Excessive wear on front teeth has detrimental effects on the wear pattern of posterior teeth, and vice versa. Excessive wear on the chewing surface of the back teeth can reduce vertical dimension, causing the back teeth to no longer touch when biting and chewing. A collapsed bite alters the facial structure and its proportions. It can also give the appearance of a propped-open mouth.
Do I really need a nightguard?
Understandably, cost is a common concern among patients who need nightguards. However, those who grind their teeth can’t afford NOT to have one. Investing in a professionally made nightguard is just that: an investment. It will last many years and save you thousands of dollars in preventable restorative work. Sure, you can buy an over-the-counter boil-and-bite nightguard, but these often come at the cost of long-term comfort as they can damage the temporomandibular joint (where your mouth hinges open).
Invest in protecting your smile to avoid long-term damage with nightguards.
A professionally crafted nightguard not only helps you achieve better quality sleep and avoid jaw discomfort but also protects the teeth from the traumatic effects of teeth grinding and clenching. It places a protective cushion between the upper and lower teeth, helping to prevent bruxism-related gum recession, abfractions, and wear.
Written by Dr. Christopher King
Dr. King has been leading King Dental since 2000. In the 20-plus years since opening King Dental, his experiences have only strengthened his excitement for his chosen career. Dentistry is Dr. King’s life’s mission.