In today’s crazy, busy world, people are taking their stress out on their teeth during their nightly sleep cycles in the form of clenching and grinding. The formal dental term for clenching and grinding is bruxism. During your routine cleaning and exam, we can see the damage that this causes to your teeth through evidence or enamel wear or even tooth fractures. If this isn’t managed, it can bring about worsening dental problems including the need for root canals, crowns, and in extreme circumstances, extractions. It can also lead to muscle fatigue, which in turn can cause soreness in your cheek and temple areas, headaches, and in severe cases TMJ (jaw joint) issues. It is also important that the doctor determine if the grinding is a sign of a more severe medical issue, obstructive sleep apnea. (More about obstructive sleep apnea coming soon to our blog!)
When we see evidence of clenching and grinding, we recommend and prescribe a custom occlusal guard. An occlusal guard is a horseshoe-shaped plastic which is worn over your teeth to protect them against the damage caused by clenching and grinding. It works by creating a physical barrier between the upper and lower teeth. The bite is cushioned by the material, and the damage is taken out on a replaceable appliance rather than your valuable tooth structure.
Custom occlusal guards can be fabricated for either the upper or lower arch, most patients prefer an upper occlusal guard. The process requires two easy appointments. The first appointment consists of taking an impression of your upper and lower teeth that are then sent to a dental laboratory. The lab designs and fabricates the occlusal guard specifically to fit your one-of-a-kind mouth. This usually takes less than 2 weeks. We then invite you back to try the occlusal guard in your mouth, and sometimes make minor adjustments to the bite so you are comfortable.
We ask that you wear this every night. It may also be worn during the day if you are under any great stress and feel it is necessary. Some of our patients like to wear their occlusal guard while they are exercising; others while they are studying or doing stressful work from home. Usually they are made in a clear plastic, but you can also choose an assortment of colors.
Occlusal guards are easy to care for. We recommend cleaning them daily with either soap and water or toothpaste. We also invite you to bring them with you to your cleaning appointments where we provide a complimentary ultrasonic cleaning of your appliance.
It is common to notice an increase in salivation for the first few nights while getting used to having something new in your mouth, but your mouth adjusts quickly. Most patients find that after a period of time, they can’t sleep without their occlusal guard!
We urge our patients to keep their occlusal guards in a safe place away from pets. Dogs love to chew them up, even through the case! We have had to remake too many of them thanks to beloved pets chewing or burying them!
Could you be clenching and grinding?
Do you often wake up with the feeling of tightness or soreness in your jaw?
Do you frequently get headaches?
Are you noticing your shape of your teeth flattening or small pieces fracturing off?
Are you under stress?
If you answered YES to any of these, we recommend giving us a call or discussing this with your hygienist at your next routine appointment.
Team members Gina, Kathy, Yana and Dr. Ziemba showing off the variety of color choices of our custom occlusal guards; pink, green, blue and clear.
Get to know Sandy!
Sandy wearing her pink custom occlusal guard
What is your role at PVDA? I’m a Certified Dental Assistant. My job is to assist the doctor with all procedures and make his job easier.
How long have you been with the team? I’ve been with the team for 21 years this month!
What is your favorite part of being a part of Team PVDA? I love my job, especially interacting with my patients. What I love most about being a part of the team is that we are all a family. We truly care for each other inside and outside of the office
What is your favorite healthy snack? A slice of chicken and a salad. I crave protein and this is my go-to!
What is your favorite activity outside of the dental field? Cooking during the cooler months. In the warmer months, I love to garden.
To maintain a healthy lifestyle, what is one piece of advice you can give? I truly enjoy a long, brisk walk with my dogs.