Bruxism is another word for grinding or clenching your teeth together. Bruxing can happen unconsciously during the day when you are awake or at night while you sleep. Not surprisingly, the amount of force and friction created by bruxing is not good for your long-term oral health. For some people, their bruxing can be frequent and severe enough that it damages some of their teeth irreversibly. In many people, bruxism is correlated with gum recession and bone loss. Left untreated, severe bruxism can also cause pain or soreness in the cheeks, ears, neck, or face. It is often responsible for chronic headaches. Depending on a person's anatomy, it can even begin to affect the soft tissue near the temporomandibular joints (TMJ), causing pain, noise, or locking of the jaw. In addition, people who brux during sleep are more likely to have other sleep disorders, such as snoring or pauses in breathing (Obstructive Sleep Apnea).
What do bruxism appliances do?
Prevent flattened, fractured, chipped, or loosened teeth
Keep you from wearing down tooth enamel and exposing deeper layers of your teeth
Decrease tooth pain or sensitivity
Stop pain associated with headaches or earaches
Protect the integrity of your gum tissue and its attachment to your bone
Improve the quality of your sleep as well as your partner's
What can I expect?
Having a bruxism appliance made (also called a "bite splint") usually takes two visits. During your first appointment, highly accurate impressions (models) and measurements are taken of your teeth so that our laboratory can create an appliance that is custom-made to fit you. It will be made out of hard acrylic with retentive wire clasps, and it will sit over your lower teeth. After it is has been fabricated (typically after a week or so), you will come back to our office for a longer appointment. We will first use a TENS (transcutaneous electrical neurostimulation) unit to relax your jaw muscles and allow them to settle into your most natural occlusion (your bite in the closed position). Then we will insert and adjust your appliance. Typically, we recommend that you wear your bruxism appliance for 24 hours a day (or as much as possible) for the first 4 to 6 weeks. After that, people usually decrease their wearing time to nighttime only, though some people do elect to wear it during anticipated times of daytime tension.
We recommend that you clean your appliance the same way you clean your teeth (i.e., with a toothbrush and toothpaste) and that you store it in a clean, dry place. (Please note: dogs love the taste of acrylic, so keep your appliance well out of reach or you may lose it to your canine friend!) We also recommend that you bring your appliance with you to your 6 month cleaning appointments so that we can give it a deep clean and check the way it fits you.