How Dental Appliances Can Help Your Nighttime Bruxism

The term oral parafunctional habit is used to describe any abnormal behavior or functioning of the oral structures and associated muscles. Abnormal behaviors commonly include bruxism, clenching, excessive gum chewing, lip/nail biting or nonnutritive sucking. Bruxism is a condition where a person grinds their teeth. The strain from tooth grinding can cause tooth sensitivity, gingival recession, and worn enamel. If you have tight or tired jaw muscles or headaches, you might suspect that you have bruxism.

Day-time bruxism is easier to fix since you can make a conscious effort to relax your jaw and unclench your teeth. Nighttime bruxism can be a little harder to deal with since you cannot consciously control the problem. Thankfully, there are many dental appliances which can help correct this problem. Read on to learn more about the possible causes for your nighttime bruxism and how to treat the symptoms.

Stress-Related Bruxism

When your stress level is high, a common manifestation of that stress is physical exertion of the muscles which close the jaw. The primary closing muscle is called the masseter. This is the strongest muscle in the human body in terms of exerting pressure.

This masseter muscle can generate about 150 pounds of pressure. As you can imagine, excessive pressure can wreak havoc on your dental health. You may want to look into massage therapy to release any trigger points in the muscle tissue that you may feel in the daytime. During the nighttime, you may want to wear an occlusal splint.

An occlusal splint is similar to an athletic mouth guard, but made of harder material. Occlusal splints are great at protecting your teeth from bruxism during times of stress. It is easy to get fitted for an occlusal splint. Your dentist will take impressions of your teeth as well as a record of how your teeth come together. Then, a lab will create a nightguard from that mold.

Migraine-Related Bruxism

Some people with bruxism also suffer from migraines. Although, it is not always clear if bruxism causes the migraines or vice versa.

People with migraines often have problems with their trigeminal nerves, which is a major nerve providing sensory input to your face. The trigeminal nerve runs through the masseter muscles in your cheeks. These muscles may be affected by overactive nerve signals.

While a basic occlusal splint may help your migraine-related bruxism, you should consider an oral appliance called a nociceptive trigeminal inhibition suppression splint (also known as an NTI-Tension suppression system or an NTI appliance). These appliances are known as deprograming devices because they allow the muscles to relax. NTI appliances are used widely for clenching as well.

NTI appliances have a variety of designs, but all work on the principal of keeping the posterior teeth from touching. When your back teeth do not touch, you cannot generate as much biting force. These appliances allow the temporalis muscle to relax as well, a common muscle associated with tension headaches and migraines. These appliances are fabricated in the same manner as nightguards.

Sleep Apnea-Related Bruxism

If you suffer from daytime fatigue and a dry mouth in the mornings, your bruxism may be related to undiagnosed sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can be caused by a blockage in a person’s airway or you simply stop breathing. In either case, you may have periods during the night when you stop breathing. While a number of health issues are linked with sleep apnea, most people with apnea exhibit bruxism.

Some people use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device that helps both their sleep apnea and their bruxism. Unfortunately, CPAP machines do not work for everyone. If you have mild to moderate sleep apnea and a CPAP is not working, ask your dentist about a mandibular advancement appliance.

This dental appliance moves the jaw forward so that your tongue and upper airway do not collapse while you sleep. Plus, if your sleep apnea causes bruxism, then this dental appliance will also address that issue. The appliance slightly separates the space between the upper and lower jaws so your teeth will be protected from grinding.

Contact us at Silverstone Family Dental for more information about these types of appliances and how to address your bruxism.