Phoenix, Bruxism - Do I need.....an occlusal guard?
Odds are great, that indeed you do need a custom occlusal guard. We seem to be replacing dental decay with broken teeth as the leading problem in dentistry. Improved education, access to healthcare, utilization of fluoride and an increased value placed on attractive, healthy teeth are all playing a role in drastically reducing the rate of dental decay, or cavities. At the same time, increased stress appears to be increasing the number of people we see with evidence of premature wear on their teeth. When you come in for an exam, we evaluate your teeth to see how much of your tooth’s enamel is missing and if you have any evidence that your teeth are beginning to crack so we can determine your risk of breaking your teeth. Although it is not yet the number one problem we treat, it is quickly becoming one of the most common problems we see.
Enamel is the hardest substance in our entire body. It is expected that one will lose approximately one millimeter of enamel every 100 years with normal wear and tear. Clenching your teeth and/or grinding, or bruxism, is the cause of abnormal wear to your teeth. Either or both of these habits can occur when awake or asleep and can happen consciously, although, most often it is an unconscious tendency. Many times patients are unaware of these habits until we show them the destruction in their mouth and explain to them how it happens. Although we are unable to “cure” clenching or bruxism, we can create a protective guard you wear to prevent additional destruction. Our goal is to catch it early before there is significant wear or breakage. This habit has the potential to destroy teeth to the extent that very little tooth structure is visible in the mouth and chewing becomes impossible. If left untreated for long enough for this scenario to develop, we may only be able to extract the remaining roots and provide dentures. It is far preferable to seek treatment before there are so few options available.
Headaches, TMD and sore jaws
Not only does clenching or grinding destroy our teeth, it also can cause headaches, create or exacerbate temporomandibular joint disorder and can make us wake up with a very tight or tired jaw. We have extremely powerful jaws so that we are able to eat a wide variety of foods. However, if these muscles and joints are working when we are not eating, we can begin to have undesirable side effects from this unhealthy habit.
An occlusal guard is a clear, rigid oral appliance that fits snugly on your top teeth and feels similar to an orthodontic retainer. Most often, it is worn only at night as this is usually when most clenching and bruxism happens. The process of creating an occlusal guard for you is a fairly simple process. We take an impression of your upper and lower teeth for our Kois affiliated laboratory specialist to create the custom fitted guard specifically for you. When we receive the guard back from our lab, you have a brief appointment with Dr. Holton to make any necessary modifications to the device. It is important to note that attempting to address this problem with an over-the-counter mouth guard can actually create more problems than it will solve. Therefore, we do not recommend you use this type of mouth guard. When you receive your Kois occlusal guard, there may be an adjustment period when you begin to sleep with the guard since it prevents you from unconsciously doing what your brain has developed a habit of doing. Persistence is important during this time and many patients ultimately report that they feel strange if they try to sleep without wearing it once they do make that adjustment.
An investment in your health
Although many insurance companies do not provide coverage for this type of device, some will if we find evidence of premature wear to your teeth. Even if you do not have coverage, the cost of the occlusal guard is less than half the cost of one crown and less than 1/8th the cost of one implant. We think that you’ll agree that this is money well spent in a time when we are literally breaking our teeth while we sleep.
If you do choose to invest in protecting your teeth in this way, please take note that our pets love to chew up these guards at an alarmingly high rate. If this happens, it will almost certainly be the most expensive chew toy you ever provided for your pet. Please keep the guards tightly shut in the case provided and have a designated storage site that your pet cannot reach. It is recommended that you brush the outside and inside of the guard with a soft toothbrush and water every time you take it out of your mouth. Please don’t soak the guard in any solutions or use toothpaste on your toothbrush during cleaning. If brushed thoroughly with water after ever use, there is no need for any additional care. If you know or suspect you have excessive wear on your teeth, please contact us so we can help you preserve your teeth.