If you frequently wake up with a sore jaw, headache, or feeling tired, a medical condition called sleep bruxism may be to blame. The science behind sleep bruxism is still being studied, and there are no known cures. Luckily, wearing a protective night guard can reduce or even eliminate all of the symptoms associated with sleep bruxism. Please continue reading to find out more about how a guard could improve your quality of life.

Exactly what is sleep bruxism?

Sleep bruxism is the scientific term for grinding or clenching your teeth at night while you’re asleep. The medical community isn’t sure what causes it in all cases, but several contributing factors have been identified. If you have an abnormal bite due to crooked or missing teeth, you have a higher risk of developing sleep bruxism. Likewise, stress, anxiety and certain sleep disorders may play a role in teeth grinding. Finally, a 2016 study in the Journal of the American Dental Association revealed that individuals who regularly use alcohol and tobacco are up to twice as likely to develop sleep bruxism as the general population.

How do I know if I have sleep bruxism?

The leading symptoms of nighttime teeth clenching include general jaw discomfort, frequent morning headaches, insomnia, unexplained damage to any dental or orthodontic work and your partner actually hearing you grind in the middle of the night. If you experience any of these, you may wish to try a night guard to see if it can help.

How do night guards reduce nighttime teeth grinding?

A night guard is simply a cushion between your upper and lower jaws that prevents them from touching. If you are familiar with how a mouth guard works, night guards are extremely similar. The key to a good night guard is finding a comfortable fit. After all, you may not put it in at night if it prevents you from enjoying a drink of water or bedtime conversation with your partner. If you wear braces, you can also find a night guard that can be remolded after every adjustment.

What types of night guards are available?

There are two broad categories of night guards to consider: Over-The-Counter (or OTC) and Prescription (generally custom-fit by a dentist). OTC guards are only a few bucks while dentists may charge thousands to custom-fit a guard to your mouth. You should be wary of guards constructed of cheap materials that you may be able to grind straight through, but paying more doesn’t guarantee that you’re getting a better guard. It’s best to do your own research to determine which night guard best fits your needs.

Does dental insurance cover night guards?

Many dental insurers will pay for at least a portion of your night guard, especially if your teeth grinding has caused noticeable damage to your smile. Of course, every policy has its own terms and exclusions. You should read the fine print of your specific agreement before assuming that insurance will absorb the entire bill.

Parting thoughts

Living with sleep bruxism can be difficult, but thankfully you don’t have to. Wearing a night guard every night can mitigate many of the symptoms of nighttime teeth clenching and may eliminate them completely. Please contact us, your dentist in Lutz, FL, if you have any further questions about sleep bruxism or what to do about it.