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Are Cracked Teeth on the Rise?

One of the unanticipated side effects of the coronavirus pandemic is a rise in the number of tooth fractures that have come about due to an increase in teeth clenching and grinding. According to a recent article in The New York Times, one dentist has noticed a marked increase in the number of patients with complaints of jaw pain, tooth sensitivity and migraines during the coronavirus shutdown. This clenching and grinding of the teeth is also known as bruxism. It can be caused by stress, anxiety, lack of sleep and poor posture. These problems have all become more common as people have begun to work at home due to the pandemic.

What Is Bruxism?

Bruxism is the medical word for clenching or grinding your teeth and jaws. Grinding occurs when you move the jaw back and forth, while clenching occurs when you bite down forcefully for lengthy periods of time. This condition is common and generally happens when people are asleep or are feeling stressed. Most people don’t even realize that they have been grinding their teeth until their dentist tells them so.

Grinding your teeth while you sleep can cause damage to both the enamel and the structure of your teeth. This can lead to your teeth to become extra sensitive and more prone to developing decay. It can also lead to headaches and sleep disruptions, as well as cause pain in the face, jaw and neck.

Some factors that may put you at a higher risk of developing bruxism are:

  • Age: Young children are most likely to develop this problem.
  • Personality Type: People who are hyperactive, competitive or aggressive are also more likely to have bruxism.
  • Intense Emotions: Patients who are under stress or who frequently feel angry or frustrated are at a higher risk of developing bruxism.
  • Certain Medications and Substances: Drinking caffeine or alcohol, tobacco use and various psychiatric medications can make it more likely that you will develop bruxism.
  • Other Health Conditions: Bruxism is frequently associated with other types of conditions, like Parkinson’s disease, sleep apnea, epilepsy and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

What Can I Do to Stop Clenching My Teeth During the Day?

Bruxism may be caused by a combination of physical, genetic and psychological factors. If you have bruxism during the day, it may be because you are experiencing intense emotions like anger, stress, anxiety, frustration or tension. If you’ve been suffering from bruxism during the day or night, there are some things that you can do in order to prevent or lessen the amount of teeth grinding and clenching you’re doing.

These things include:

  • Not smoking, especially before bedtime.
  • Limiting the amount of caffeine and alcohol that you consume.
  • Using relaxation techniques during stressful times and before bed. These can include listening to calming music, taking a bath, meditating or going for a walk.

How Can Dentists Help Me?

The best way to treat bruxism is via a custom night guard that is worn whenever you sleep. Wearing a mouth guard can assist in protecting your teeth from becoming excessively worn down. It can also help to relieve you of pain from temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome. If you believe that a night guard can help you in treating your bruxism or TMJ syndrome, you should contact our office to book a consultation with one of our dental professionals.

What Are Custom Night Guards?

Custom night guards are oral devices that have a similar appearance to teeth whitening trays. They rest over your teeth and protect them from clenching and grinding. Other names for a night guard include an occlusal guard, a bite splint and an occlusal splint. Wearing this device doesn’t actually stop you from grinding or clenching your teeth; however, it protects the teeth from becoming excessively worn down and it assists in re-establishing the natural space that should exist between the lower and upper teeth.

Why Do People Wear Night Guards for Sleeping?

Many dentists recommend that you wear a night guard if you have morning headaches or pain from TMJ syndrome. Other uses for night guards include preventing damage to the jaw, teeth, crowns and other kinds of dental restoration work.

What Is TMJ Syndrome?

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome is a condition that affects the functioning of the muscles of the jaw and the temporomandibular joint connecting the jaw to the skull. Jaw injuries and bruxism are the most common causes of TMJ syndrome. Some symptoms of this condition include:

  • Feeling tenderness or pain in the face, jaw, neck, shoulders or around the ear
  • Having difficulty opening the mouth wide or chewing
  • Experiencing a popping or clicking noise when opening or closing the mouth
  • Having a jaw that appears to get stuck or locked into position
  • Swelling along the side of the face
  • Experiencing discomfort when biting

Will a Bruxism Mouth Guard Provide TMJ Pain Relief?

While night guards aren’t the only type of treatment provided for bruxism or pain from TMJ syndrome, they are a convenient, affordable and non-invasive way to treat the issue. Wearing a properly fitted night guard will shift your teeth and jaw into their proper alignments, relieving you of jaw tension, headaches, pain and any other symptoms of TMJ syndrome you may be experiencing.

Why Should I Get a Mouth Guard for Jaw Clenching?

Failing to properly treat your symptoms of bruxism may lead you to develop serious dental issues that require expensive treatments. Bruxism is one of the leading causes of root canals. People who grind their teeth can erode millimeters of enamel, making them more likely to develop cavities. Clenching of the jaw can put your teeth and jaw under extreme stress, setting the stage for muscle and jaw pain.

While you can purchase less expensive mouth guards online or at a drug store, there are multiple reasons why it’s worth it see a dentist for a custom-fitted device:

  • Wearing a custom-fitted mouth guard ensures that your jaw stays properly aligned, which can help with any jaw pain you are experiencing due to TMJ syndrome.
  • Custom-fitted night guards fit your mouth properly. This means that they are more comfortable to wear and that they will stay in place throughout the night.
  • Since they are made out of stronger materials than over-the-counter night guards, custom-fitted night guards tend to last longer.

How Can I Get a Custom Night Guard?

The process for receiving a custom night guard is simple. It consists of your dentist taking an impression of your teeth. This impression is then utilized to create a mold that will be sent to a lab. The lab will create your mouth guard out of a durable plastic. Once your guard is finished, your dentist will ensure that it fits. All that is left is for you to wear it when you sleep at night. While your night guard may feel strange at first, you should get used to wearing it relatively quickly. A custom-fitted mouth guard won’t interfere with the way you speak, nor will it interfere with your breathing.

How Much Do Bruxism Night Guards Cost?

The amount that you will need to pay for your custom-fitted night guard will depend on the materials used to construct it, as well as the specifications required for it to fit your mouth properly. Night guards are usually cheaper than receiving crowns, root canals, veneers and other treatments that are used to repair the damage caused by bruxism. Our dentist will provide you with an estimate of what you will owe. You should check with your dental insurance provider to determine what kind of coverage you have for night guards.

At Gentle Dental of Pennsylvania, we do everything we can to ensure that your visit is stress-free and comfortable. If you are suffering from the symptoms of bruxism, contact us to schedule an appointment.

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