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Smiles at Fairfax Corner
4210 Fairfax Corner Ave W, Ste 220, Fairfax, VA 22030

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Are Cracked Teeth on the Rise?

Dentists across the nation are seeing a spike in patients coming in who have a fractured tooth or filling. Experts are blaming the anxiety and uncertainty people are feeling during the coronavirus pandemic on the problem as more people are grinding their teeth at night. The link between teeth grinding and jaw clenching and stress is well documented.

As people lie awake at night or even pass the daytime hours worrying about their job, thinking about if their kids are safe at school and whether their family will stay healthy, the anxiety carries over into their sleep. The prolonged anxiety is allowing major damage to teeth to occur as many individuals are not aware they are grinding their teeth as it was never a habit they had before.

What Is Bruxism?

Bruxism is a condition where you grind or clench your teeth. You can unconsciously clench your teeth during the day or engage in either behavior while you are asleep. Many individuals are unaware they have bruxism until they crack a tooth or their dentist notices the signs. Certain medical and dental conditions, like a misaligned jaw, can cause bruxism, but the primary culprit is anxiety or stress. Sometimes, people hear from a partner that they are making grinding noises.

There are also factors that make some individuals more prone to developing bruxism including:

  • Young adults – It is rare in people over age 65
  • People who have aggressive tendencies
  • People who are highly competitive
  • People who are under a lot of stress or who don’t handle stress well
  • People with sleep apnea, ADHD, Parkinson’s disease or dementia
  • People who use alcohol, tobacco or recreational drugs
  • People with a high daily intake of caffeine

How Do Dentists Treat Bruxism?

If bruxism is caused by stress, your dentist will likely recommend you practice stress reduction techniques and wear a night guard to prevent tooth damage and the headaches and jaw pain upon waking. Your dentist may also need to repair a fractured tooth or cracked restoration if bruxism has already caused damage. If you suspect you have bruxism, call us to set up an exam for a diagnosis and to discuss your treatment options.

What Are Custom Mouth Guards that Are Worn at Night?

Mouth guards, also known as night or bruxism guards, are plastic or acrylic appliances which keep your teeth apart so you cannot wear them down or crack them. Interestingly enough, the guard does not actual prevent you from clenching or grinding your teeth, rather it acts as a cushion so you cause less damage.

Teeth guards made from a dental lab, custom-fitted to your mouth will provide the greatest help in preventing issues as they cushion the teeth comfortably. You may have seen them before as they resemble the trays used for whitening treatments.

Why Should I Wear a Mouth Guard at Night?

Night guards can prevent chipped or cracked teeth. They also keep you from wearing the enamel off of your teeth. Wearing down the enamel can cause your teeth to deteriorate to the point where they are more susceptible to decay. Night guards also will prevent tooth sensitivity, and in severe bruxism cases, TMJ disorders. You also won’t wake up with annoying morning headaches or jaw pain. Not waking in pain and remaining more aware of your clenching behaviors may also have an impact on your clenching during the day.

What Are Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders or Syndromes?

Your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) make it possible to move your jaw. They are hinges which connect your jaw to your skull. If the joints become painful or inflamed, you may have a temporomandibular joint disorder. Symptoms of a TMJ syndrome include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw or near the ear
  • Trouble opening your mouth fully
  • Pain while chewing
  • Your jaw locks or gets stuck
  • Your jaw pops or clicks
  • Your bite becomes uneven

Can a Mouth Guard Stop Pain from TMJ Syndrome?

For TMJ syndromes caused by bruxism, a mouth guard can keep you from grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw, which puts a strain on the joint. Other treatment may be needed if your TMJ syndrome is the result of an injury. Call our office to consult with one of our experienced dentists so you can start feeling relief quickly and prevent any further damage.

Why Are Mouth Guards to Prevent Teeth Grinding Essential?

It is the least invasive bruxism treatment. If your dentist recommends one, it is worth considering to prevent future dental problems. You will also feel better without the chronic headaches and jaw pain that many people with bruxism experience.

How Do I Get a Custom-made Night Mouth Guard?

Your dentist can have a dental lab fabricate a custom-made one for you that fits comfortably. It will protect your teeth better than a night guard you buy over-the-counter because it is a better quality appliance. Dentist-supplied night guards also last longer, and you can have your dentist examine it periodically to ensure it is still in good condition.

How Expensive Are Night Guards?

The cost of your custom-made night guard depends on the quality of the materials the dental lab uses and the specifications your dentist determines you need. A night guard will almost always cost less than repairing damage to teeth and restorations. If you call us to schedule an exam, one of our dentist can give you an estimate of your cost for the appliance. Dental insurance may cover the cost. Please check your policy or contact your insurance company. Our staff can also help you determine your coverage.

If you suspect you grind your teeth at night or you have a fractured tooth, please contact us. One of our experienced dentists will check your teeth for signs that you grind them or clench your jaw. If you need a night guard to protect your teeth, your dentist can talk to you about which type is best for you. While we may be in the midst of a pandemic, we are always available to help you improve or fix your dental health.

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