Grind! Grind! Grind!
Many people clench or grind their teeth together without even knowing they do so. In severe cases there may be associated loud noises, headaches and jaw pain, an inability to open wide or for a long time or discomfort when chewing. However, most cases may be asymptomatic until the dentist or patient themselves notice that their teeth have been worn down.
Commonly, clenching and grinding of the teeth or bruxism is because of stress. Similar to when we grit our teeth together when we are presented with a physical stress such as lifting something very heavy, some people clench or grind their teeth together when they are presented with mental or emotional stress such as concentrating hard at the computer or even when they are sleeping and dreaming of what happened during a hard day at work or school. Sporadic, infrequent episodes of this may not be a problem, but continual, repetitive clenching and grinding will cause damage to your teeth, jaw muscles and jaw joints.
Bruxism is a problem as even minor contact of the teeth over time can cause damage to teeth and dental work, resulting in tooth wear with shortening and flattening of the teeth and even fractures. Overuse of tired and tense jaw muscles when they should be resting can lead to headaches and jaw pain. Jaw joints that have been repeatedly forced against the base of the skull may make annoying clicking or creaking sounds.
An occlusal splint or night guard is a heavy duty mouthguard worn over the upper teeth at night to protect the teeth, jaw muscles and jaw joints from the impact of clenching and grinding. They also train the jaw muscles to relax and remember the relaxed jaw position so that during the day when the occlusal splint is not being worn, the teeth, jaw muscles and jaw joints are still protected.
Occlusal splints traditionally covered all the upper teeth, but newer versions have become smaller and hence more comfortable to wear, only covering the upper 6 front teeth so the back teeth are disengaged and unable to cause damage by clenching and grinding with guidance of jaw positioning controlled by the front teeth.
Talk to your dentist at Central Brisbane Dental about clenching and grinding and see which type of occlusal splint is right for you.