If you wake up with jaw pain, headaches, or facial pain, you may be clenching or grinding your teeth. Since you're asleep when this happens, there’s not much you can do to control it. However, wearing a dental mouthguard can help protect your teeth from the wear of clenching and grinding. Let’s learn more about mouthguards and why you might need one.
Why You Might Need a Professionally Fitted Mouthguard
Many people clench, grind, or gnash their teeth, which is a condition known as bruxism. Bruxism most commonly occurs when you’re asleep, although you can unconsciously clench or grind your teeth while awake.
No matter when you grind your teeth, bruxism is bad for your dental health. It can fracture and loosen your teeth, and chronic bruxism may wear down your teeth to the stumps. In severe cases, you could lose your teeth altogether. When these things happen, you may need a dental bridge, crown, root canal, implant, or even complete dentures to replace your teeth.
Bruxism can also affect your jaw, as it can cause or worsen temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Continual jaw clenching can even change the facial structure. When you overwork these jaw muscles, they can enlarge, leading to a wide, square-looking face.
Bruxism is one of the main reasons why you should consider a mouthguard, but there are other symptoms to look out for too, including:
Fractured or worn-down teeth
Jaw pain or stiffness
A dull headache after waking up
Chronic facial pain
Earache and ear ringing
Overly sensitive teeth
How a Mouthguard Can Help with Jaw Pain
If you’re grinding or clenching your teeth, it’s recommended that you wear a mouthguard. While a mouthguard won’t stop you from clenching or grinding, it helps keep your top and bottom teeth from making contact with each other, preventing the damaging effects of bruxism. Additionally, a mouthguard can:
Hold your jaw in the right position to fix an irregular bite
Relax your jaw and facial muscles, which can reduce TMJ pain
Prevent your jaw from locking
Alleviate pain due to a worn disc or arthritic condition
Protect your enamel by dispersing the force created by your jaw during clenching
Help reduce snoring by moving your jaw and tongue forward to open up your airway
Types of Mouthguards
There are two types of mouthguards that you can use to help protect your teeth:
You can find one-size-fits-all plastic mouthguards at your local pharmacy or sporting goods store, which are designed to fit most mouths right out of the box. While they are inexpensive, they won’t fit as well as custom-fitted mouthguards. However, these one-size-fits-all mouthguards are better than leaving your teeth unprotected.
The “boil-and-bite” mouthguard is another over the counter (OTC) option. With these mouthguards, you simply put them in the microwave or boiling water and then bite into the softened material, which molds to your mouth’s shape and size. While these mouthguards may provide a better fit than the one-size-fits-all versions, don’t expect them to fit perfectly like a custom-fitted mouthguard can.
You must make an appointment with your dentist to get a custom mouthguard. Your dentist will create impressions of your teeth and jaw using trays filled with jelly material. For the impression to fully form, you must keep it in your mouth for two to three minutes. Once your impression is complete, your dentist will send it off to a lab, where a technician will use the impression to create your custom-fitted mouthguard.
Custom mouthguards are more durable and provide a much better fit than OTC options. Plus, custom mouthguards can both protect your teeth and alleviate jaw pain, which OTC mouthguards cannot do. However, they can be expensive, so check your dental plan to see if mouthguards are included either partially or entirely.
Proactively Fighting Against Jaw Pain
Many people don’t realize they grind their teeth or clench their jaws. That’s why it’s important to make regular dental appointments so your dentist can routinely check your oral health and catch any problems before they get worse. If your dentist recommends you get a custom mouthguard, it’s understandable to be concerned about the price. However, investing in a custom nightguard can save you money in the long run because it may help prevent costly procedures like dental crowns and root canals.
Luckily, most dental savings plans offer savings on mouthguards. These plans are an affordable alternative to dental insurance, providing plan members with discounts of 10-60% on the majority of dental services. If you have any questions about how dental savings plans can save you money, you can reach out to us at 1-833-735-0399. Our trained experts will be happy to help you evaluate your options.