Despite being the hardest substance in the human body, teeth are not immune to the negative effects of stress. In fact, it’s estimated that 1 in 5 adults will experience Bruxism, a stress-related condition characterized by excessive teeth grinding and jaw clenching at some point in their lifetime. Because bruxism primarily occurs during sleep, it has the reputation of being a somewhat mysterious and often undetected condition but its consequences are very real.
Most medical experts believe that teeth grinding is the body’s natural way to relieve stress and anxiety and once the stressful event has passed, the clenching and grinding usually goes away. But the relationship between the two can be a vicious circle, since bruxism often results in sleep disruption and sleep disruption often causes stress which in turn will cause us to grind our teeth even more. Over time, if left untreated, the long term effects of bruxism on our teeth as well as the body can be serious and quite disruptive to our everyday life.
What Happens When We Start Teeth Grinding
Research shows that teeth grinding can occur for as long as 40 minutes for every hour of sleep, and with the exerted force of as much as 250 pounds – that’s strong enough to crack a walnut, so the pressure put on our teeth and jaw is significant. The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) bear the brunt of the force, these are the flexible joints found on each side of the head in front of the ears, connecting the lower jaw to the temporal bone of the skull. They are the most active joints in the body, responsible for all our jaw movements including eating and talking. Excessive clenching can cause irritation and inflammation which can result in pain in the jaw, neck and ear, all early indicators of bruxism.
Also, when we grind consistently we wear down tooth enamel, which is the outer most layer of the tooth and provides a protective coating. Once the enamel is gone and the underlying dentin (the tissue containing hollow canals called tubules) is exposed, hot, cold, acidic and sticky foods stimulate the nerves and cells inside the tooth making it uncomfortable to eat, drink or even brush teeth, another early sign of bruxism.
Long Term Effects of Bruxism
Along with destroying tooth enamel, over time, the intense pressure clenching puts on our teeth can also cause them to crack, split, or fracture. When we’ve reached this point, stress levels only tend to increase because we’re now facing painful and time consuming dental procedures such as root canals, implants, bridges, or dentures.
But the damage isn’t just limited to our teeth. Because clenching puts pressure on our teeth to move down toward the roots, the gums recede causing bacteria pockets to form which can lead to other unintended consequences like increased plaque, infections and periodontal disease.
And if that’s not bad enough, research indicates that if we do grind our teeth we will most likely experience one or more secondary symptoms of bruxism – these are also no fun and can include migraine headaches, vertigo, hearing problems and laryngitis.
While there is currently no medication available to treat bruxism, since stress is a known trigger, finding natural ways to reduce stress in our daily lives can help to minimize severity and frequency of bruxism, this can include diet modification, exercise, and relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, and acupuncture.
In addition, dental experts agree that wearing a dental grind guard while sleeping is an effective way to diminish the effects of teeth grinding. A dental grind guard works by preventing the upper and lower teeth from coming into contact with each other, providing a barrier from the tooth on tooth friction caused by grinding. Dental grind guards unfortunately cannot reverse past damage but are effective in helping to prevent future damage and consequences. Dental grind guards are removable and generally worn only when needed (i.e., at night or while sleeping).
There are many dental grind guards on the market, however custom-fit products by dentists are expensive and may require multiple visits. Many off-the-shelf grind guards may not fit properly, can be easily chewed through, or their material composition may be simply uncomfortable to wear.
Ora-GUARD ® Takes the Stress Out of Treating Bruxism
Ora-GUARD® dental grind guard has quickly established itself as different from the rest with a revolutionary design that combines a soft, medical grade fit material to cushion the jaws during clenching, coupled with a patented bite plate wedge design specially constructed to slide the lower jaw down and forward, releasing tension on the TMJ muscle, while preventing tooth damage.
FDA cleared, Ora-GUARD ® fits securely in the mouth and is comfortable to wear, allowing for natural breathing while sleeping. An easy, individualized custom-like fit is achieved at home with a simple 60 second microwave or a boil and bite fitting process. Ora-GUARD® dental grind guard provides an immediate, over-the-counter solution that protects the teeth and minimize the painful effects of teeth grinding brought on by stress. Ora-GUARD ® is backed by a 6-month, 100% satisfaction guarantee.