An Occlusal guard from a dentist in Richmond, VA protects your teeth from grinding
If you regularly wake up with a sore jaw or headache or have noticed that some of your teeth look flatter or sharper than the others, you may suffer from a condition called “bruxism.” Simply put, you may be clenching and grinding your teeth at night. Because this happens while you sleep, you don’t have any control over the condition, and it can seem impossible to treat. Fortunately, with an occlusal guard, you can protect your teeth and find relief from your symptoms. At Richmond Family Dentistry, Dr. Olivia Hart is highly skilled at recognizing the signs of bruxism and working with patients to treat the condition.
Causes and effects of teeth grinding
Bruxism is reported to affect approximately one in ten people, but it is likely even more common than that because many people don’t even know they do it! Because grinding typically occurs while you are sleeping, it can be difficult to tell whether you do it or not. As a result, many patients suffer for years from the symptoms and effects of teeth grinding without knowing the true cause.
While stress is the most commonly cited reason for bruxism, there are other factors that can contribute to it as well. Some patients may have obstructive sleep apnea that leads to grinding, whereas others may clench and grind their teeth due to:
- Anxiety or depression
- Disruptions in neurotransmitters
- Use of alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine
- A misaligned bite
- Use of certain medications
No matter what the cause, teeth grinding can have serious consequences for your oral health, including the loss of enamel on the surface of the teeth, misshapen teeth, tooth fractures, receding gums, and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). Bruxism has also been linked to migraine headaches, depression, restless leg syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and other systemic disorders, though in many cases it is unclear whether clenching and grinding cause these disorders or vice versa.
How occlusal guards help
An occlusal guard, also called a night guard, can help prevent many of the negative effects that grinding has on your teeth. It is a custom-fitted appliance that you wear over your teeth while you sleep to prevent your teeth from being able to grind together. At Richmond Family Dentistry, we use only the highest quality, non-toxic materials to fabricate night guards so that they don’t further impact your health. While night guards can be purchased over the counter, a custom occlusal guard from the dentist will be much more comfortable and can help you achieve better results. Some night guard materials can actually encourage even more clenching and grinding while you sleep, so it is important to ensure you are getting an occlusal guard made from a beneficial material that will not worsen your condition.
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Other complementary holistic treatments
In addition to an occlusal guard, several natural remedies can help you stop grinding your teeth. It is important to identify the underlying cause of your grinding so that the appropriate treatment options can be used, which is why working with a holistic dentist like Dr. Olivia Hart to diagnose and treat the condition can help you achieve better results.
Some complementary therapies that can be used in addition to or instead of a night guard include:
- Treating obstructive sleep apnea with a specialized oral appliance or other options
- Identifying and addressing mineral deficiencies in your diet
- Using herbal remedies and natural essential oils to reduce anxiety and stress
- Eliminating alcohol and caffeine from your diet
- Working on your habits during the day to train your jaw and muscles to stay in the optimal “lips closed, teeth apart” position and avoiding chewing on hard items like pencils or ice
- Taking measures to alleviate stress and anxiety, such as increasing your amount of daily exercise, taking warm baths before bed, getting a massage, or speaking with a licensed therapist or psychologist
When you have been grinding your teeth and your jaw is sore, chewing softer foods and avoiding chewy or tough foods as popcorn or steak can also help alleviate your symptoms.
Schedule a consultation
If you are suffering from the symptoms of bruxism or your teeth are showing wear and tear due to persistent grinding, it is important to act soon to protect your teeth from further damage. At Richmond Family Dentistry, we will evaluate your mouth for signs of the condition and develop a comprehensive plan to help save your teeth and eliminate your symptoms. If you are in the Richmond, VA area, call our office at (804) 381-6238 to schedule an appointment today!