We are always looking for signs of trouble in our patients’ mouths. Some of those problems are immediate, such as broken or decayed teeth, but others happen gradually over a long period of time.
If teeth are fitting together poorly or hitting too often, eventually we can have some very significant signs of trauma that will reveal themselves over a relatively short period of time. These signs include teeth getting flatter, shorter, and more sensitive on the biting surfaces, as well as tooth looseness and gum recession, where the roots of teeth become exposed. Clenching and grinding can also cause a bruised or aching feeling in individual teeth, your jaw, your face, and even your neck or shoulders.
Teeth that hit outside of normal function are in what we call “parafunction.” Any pressure that you put on your teeth, aside from normal speaking and chewing, is considered parafunction. This include clenching of the teeth, grinding, or tooth tapping. During the day you can be be aware of excess pressure on your teeth, but night-time parafunction cannot be controlled consciously. If we suspect that you’re hurting yourself at night Dr. Rossen may prescribe a nightguard for you.
Nightguards are a firm acrylic cushion that you will only wear at night, hence the name. It only covers the biting surface of your top teeth, and is very comfortable to sleep in. While it doesn’t totally correct nighttime clenching or grinding, it does more equally distribute the pressure and protect the surface of your teeth from wear. People who begin wearing nightguards early in life, when signs of parafunction are just beginning to be noticed, can effectively stop the aging process of teeth. Most tooth wear and cracking is due to grinding at night, not daytime trauma.
Another benefit to wearing a nightguard is that your fillings and crowns will last longer, and you might even be able to prevent the roots of your teeth from getting infected and therefore avoiding the need for root canal therapy.
Think of a nightguard as some of the best dental insurance you can invest in! We certainly believe wholeheartedly in saving your teeth from damage before it even begins.