Dr. Jack Sahlaney, DMD
South Hills Village
Suite 205
Pittsburgh, PA 15241
Sahlaney Orthodontics

American Association of Orthodontists

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Do Nightguards Stop the Grinding of Teeth while Sleeping?

By Dr. Jack Sahlaney, D.M.D., M.D.S.

Does your jaw feel tight or stiff or do you have difficulty opening your mouth wide?  Do your jaw muscles feel tired in the morning?  If you have these symptoms, you may be grinding your teeth at night, a medical condition referred to as bruxism, or you may be clenching your teeth.  Bruxism and clenching can be harmful to your jaw muscles and teeth.  Bruxing and clenching can wear down teeth and destroy them.  Studies have shown that people with nighttime grinding habits may wear their tooth enamel ten times faster than those who do not grind1.  With this in mind, treating the grinding and clenching of teeth is cost effective as compared to exposing the jaw muscles and teeth to unwanted stress, wear, and strain.  The most common treatment for bruxism and clenching is to fit patients with a nightguard.

Q:        How do I know if I am bruxing?
A:         The following are common indicators of bruxing:  your dentist will inform you that the cusp tips of your teeth are being worn down or flattened, your spouse may tell you they hear you grinding your teeth while you sleep, or you may awake to sore or cramped jaw muscles.

Q:        Is a nightguard the same as a splint?
A:         A nightguard is worn only at night and is primarily a way to decrease muscular activity and continuous wearing of the teeth.  A nightguard is not a cure for bruxism but it does make a difference for those who grind their teeth. 

A splint is worn full time.  The person wearing a splint is most often doing so to treat TMD (Temporomandibular Disorders).  A nightguard and splint are fabricated and delivered to the patient in identical manners.  The only difference is the times they are worn.  If you think you have TMD, DO NOT wear your nightguard full time thinking it will help correct your TMD problems.  Please contact your dentist if you feel you have TMD problems.

Q:        What is a nightguard?
A:         A nightguard is made to fit the upper or lower jaw.  This will be determined by your dentist.  The nightguard covers all of the upper or lower teeth and is made out of a hard plastic or acrylic material.  Some nightguards can be made out of a soft material but often do not wear well due to the grinding of the teeth. 

Q:        What are the advantages of a nightguard?
A:         If the teeth are left to continue to wear away, the damaged teeth may need crowns (caps), bridges, implants, and/or dentures in the future.  The wearing of a nightguard can prevent the need for crowns, bridges, implants, and/or dentures.  Therefore a nightguard can be cost effective in the long run. 

A nightguard can relieve jaw muscle discomfort related to bruxing and grinding.  This does not include muscle pain associated with TMD.
A nightguard should be worn if a patient has been fitted with veneers, crowns, bridges, and/or implants.  This is due to the fact that most veneers, crowns, bridges, and implants are porcelain, a material that will wear teeth faster than normal teeth.  Also, individuals who grind their teeth while sleeping may dislodge the veneers and/or crowns.  A nightguard can help prevent these problems. 

A nightguard does not cure bruxism but can help prevent the wearing away of your teeth if you grind your teeth while sleeping.  A nightguard can be cost effective in preserving your own teeth, as well as restored teeth (veneers and/or crowns).  If you feel you are a candidate for a nightgaurd, please contact your dentist for an evaluation.

Reference: 1Lamey, PJ, Steele, JG, Aitchison, T. Migraine: the effect of acrylic appliance design on clinical responses.  Br Dent J  1996; 180(4):137-140.

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