Do you often find yourself waking up in the morning with aching jaws and a throbbing headache? Are your teeth more sensitive than usual, with no obvious explanation? Have you been to various specialists in an attempt to rid your life of these uncomfortable symptoms, but to no avail? If so, you could be unknowingly locked in a struggle with nocturnal bruxism, or teeth grinding that occurs during sleep. Unlike daytime teeth grinding, which is most commonly associated with stress and anxiety, nighttime grinding could be linked to any number of causes. Dr. Corbet Locke, a general dentist in Waco, TX, notes that TMJ disorders, a misaligned bite, sleep disorders, and even certain medications have the potential to cause bruxism.

Treatment Options and Relief From Bruxism

Patients who clench and grind throughout the night usually benefit from wearing a customized mouthguard while they sleep. These nightguards look similar to those worn by athletes, and they fit snugly over your teeth. Our patients find that sleeping with a mouthguard does not generally interfere with breathing, nor does it make falling asleep more difficult. Although drugstores offer nightguards over the counter, most are one size fits all, which can be uncomfortable and may even stimulate a sensitive gag reflex. If your mouthguard doesn’t fit perfectly, it will not afford much protection against your grinding. Simply brush and floss before retiring for the night, then insert the mouthguard over your teeth. Although your jaws may still make a grinding motion, your teeth will not sustain any more damage. In the meantime, you will work with Dr. Locke to determine whether corrective action is needed to prevent grinding.

What Happens to Teeth That Aren’t Protected?

Although wearing your nightguard may require a period of adjustment, Dr. Locke cautions that neglecting to wear it can have disastrous consequences for your teeth and jaw:

  • Subjecting teeth to pressure and a constant grinding motion makes them more likely to chip or crack. As a result, you will be more susceptible to developing cavities or requiring dental crowns.
  • Grinding erodes the protective tooth enamel that covers your teeth, making them more vulnerable to decay. Your risk of developing periodontal disease increases significantly, as does your risk of losing your teeth.
  • Over time, your teeth appear shorter and become flattened. This makes chewing and biting difficult, and it may interfere with your speech.

The sooner you seek treatment for nighttime teeth grinding, the more likely that Dr. Locke can save your teeth from infection or extraction. After years of grinding, you may require cosmetic or restorative dentistry to restore the appearance and function of the affected teeth. For example, badly damaged teeth could require support in the form of dental crowns, or you might need fillings. If your teeth must be extracted or have fallen out, you may be a candidate for dental implants.

Escape from the nightly grind. To learn more about nighttime teeth grinding, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Corbet Locke, contact our Waco, TX dentist office at (254) 776-4888. We proudly serve patients living in Waco, Woodway, Hewitt, McGregor, and the surrounding cities.