It has become increasingly clear in the last decade that if a patient has a significant clenching or grinding habit, it can have a major effect on their overall dental health. It has been estimated that potentially up to 90 percent of the population has some degree of a parafunctional dental habit, also known as clenching and/or grinding
Unfortunately, most people tend to do it most often in their sleep, when they can’t consciously prevent themselves from doing it. The damage from this habit is exhibited by either extensive wear or cracking of the teeth, or both in some cases. If left untreated, it can result in significant tooth damage, which often requires extensive treatment to repair, such as root canals and crowns. It can also cause both TMJ and facial pain problems, which will gradually worsen over time.
Fortunately, most of these problems can be prevented if the patient is able to wear a night guard when sleeping. This makes it impossible for the person to damage their teeth while clenching and/or grinding in their sleep. In most cases it also significantly improves any TMJ or facial pain problems. There is also a type of mouthguard that can be made if the person needs to wear it during the day. The special design of this type allows for no cosmetic visibility and minimal effect on the person’s speech.
In rare cases, it is necessary to refer a patient to a TMJ and/or facial pain specialist for other treatment options in addition to wearing the night guard. Fortunately, it has been my experience in the last 26 years that this is required in less than 5 percent of cases.
In summary, a large amount of common dental problems can now be prevented by the simple and painless fabrication of a night guard for the patient. The process involves two simple and quick appointments. The first one is to take an impression to fabricate the night guard, and the second is to fit the guard and make sure the person’s bite is even or equilibrated. A large amount of patients who wear the night guard find that they actually sleep better when they wear it!