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How to Tell When You Might Need a Night Guard

A mother and daughter showing their teeth.

There are many things we do while sleeping that we don’t know about - talking, walking, or even laughing. For the most part, these actions are harmless (and can make for quite the laugh!). However, up to 10% of individuals grind their teeth at night.

These teeth grinding, otherwise known as sleep bruxism, can cause a myriad of problems, from tooth pain to morning headaches. Because many have no idea that they are grinding their teeth at night (unless it’s loud enough that a sleeping partner wakes up and observes it), it can be challenging to determine when you may need a night guard

Night Guards for Teeth Grinding

A night guard is a thin, translucent device that is worn at night as a protective guard between your teeth. It ensures that the top teeth and bottom teeth cannot touch. This way, even while teeth grinding motion still occurs, your teeth are saved from the damage -- and that’s if the grinding still occurs. Night guards can actually help to control the teeth grinding action so that you can get a restful night’s sleep.

How to Know You May Need a Night Guard

A dentist can confirm some of the following indications, but here are some signs that you may be grinding your teeth at night. 

  1. You often wake up with headaches or a tense jaw. Teeth grinding can stimulate a great deal of tension, which can result in headaches. This tension is usually felt in the jaw, which is referred to as TMJ tension. 
  2. Your molars seem ‘flatter.’ Run your tongue over your top and back molars, which are the teeth located the furthest back in your mouth. Ideally, there should be ridges in these molars. If sleep bruxism becomes consistent, the grinding can actually wear away at the ridges, making the molars feel ‘flat.’ In some cases, the teeth grinding can be so severe that some teeth may be chipped. 
  3. You’re experiencing tooth pain and new dental problems. As you can imagine, sleep grinding puts your teeth through the ringer. If you are suddenly experiencing pain in your mouth or new problems with your teeth, this could be a reason. 

What To Do If You Are Teeth Grinding

The first line of defense if you suspect that you are grinding your teeth at night is to get a night guard. Your dentist should be your first call. At Rifkin Dental, we work diligently to create a high quality night guard that perfectly fits your teeth and mouth, so that it’s easy and comfortable to wear at night. 

Additionally, we like to give our patients some of the following tips to help against sleep bruxism. 

  1. Make exercise a part of your daily routine. Sometimes, teeth grinding can happen as a result of pent-up energy. Exercise is a great way to wear yourself out so you can get a more restful night’s sleep. 
  2. Monitor your stress levels. Some individuals never experience sleep bruxism until they go through a stressful phase of their lives. It’s important to draw connections between the two and do what you can to take care of your well-being and to promote relaxation. Some of our patients have found that creating a peaceful nighttime routine with a warm bath, a good book, and cell phones in another room can help alleviate the sleep bruxism.
  3. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. We know - coffee and wine are hard to give up! But, if the teeth grinding has been a continual issue, nixing these two can help.

We are here to help! Call our office if you have any questions or you’re ready for a night guard.

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