If you wake up in the morning with sore teeth and an aching jaw, you may be clenching or grinding your teeth while you sleep. Not only does this cause pain, but it can also lead to tooth wear and degeneration of the jaw joint. Fortunately, there’s a solution to the problem.

At Virginia H. Ellis, DDS Dental Corp. in Orinda, California, Virginia H. Ellis, DDS, and her team prescribe night guards to help patients keep from clenching or grinding their teeth. Night guards are pliable dental appliances that fit over your teeth, and they keep teeth from rubbing against each other. Here’s how this handy and effective device may be able to help you.

What conditions can a night guard treat?

There are two major dental conditions that can be remedied with a night guard.

1. Bruxism

Clenching or grinding your teeth is called bruxism. This may occur unconsciously while you’re awake — which is called awake bruxism — and it usually occurs due to stress. It can also occur while you sleep — which is called sleep bruxism — and it usually occurs due to tension or habit

If the bruxism is mild, you might not require treatment. However, in some people, bruxism is frequent and severe, leading to:

  • Jaw disorders
  • Headaches
  • Worn teeth
  • Damaged teeth

Signs of bruxism include:

  • Flattened, fractured, chipped, or loose teeth
  • Worn tooth enamel, exposing the inner pulp
  • Increased tooth pain or sensitivity (nerve exposure)
  • Tired or tight jaw muscles (TMJ dysfunction)
  • A popping sound in your jaw joint
  • A jaw locked open or closed
  • Jaw, neck, or face pain or tenderness
  • Dull headache in the temples
  • Pain that feels like an earache that’s not coming from the ear
  • Cheek damage from chewing against the lining

2. Temporomandibular joint disorders

The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to your skull and allows you to open and close your mouth as well as chew and speak. If you have a problem with this joint, the jaw itself, the muscles that control jaw movement, or a combination of these issues, you have what’s known as a temporomandibular disorder (TMD)

While causes of TMDs can come from a wide range of issues, such as an injury or arthritis in the joint, the biggest contributor is bruxism.

How can a night guard help me?

After examining your mouth and taking X-rays if needed, Dr. Ellis will be able to see if bruxism is a problem for you. If your teeth show signs of wear, or if they’re chipped or cracked, she may prescribe a night guard to keep your teeth from grinding.

She may also recommend a night guard if you suffer from a temporomandibular joint disorder. Depending on what’s causing your temporomandibular joint disorder, a night guard may be able to prevent constant jaw movement, help keep your jaw from popping out of its socket, help keep your jaw from locking, and other helpful benefits.

Night guards are custom made to fit the exact specifications of your mouth. To get a night guard, a provider takes an impression of your mouth. Then your night guard is created using the impression. Night guards can be fashioned from a hard acrylic or a soft, flexible material. Dr. Ellis will discuss which kind would be appropriate for you.

If you’re experiencing jaw pain, stiffness, or tooth wear, you may benefit from a night guard. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Virginia H. Ellis, DDS Dental Corp. today.