One thing that really bothers me is when a dentist recommends a night guard very quickly. It’s crucial to discuss the cause of your clenching, grinding, or tapping (bruxism). Considering the chance of something as serious as sleep apnea being overlooked, I believe not exploring the cause of bruxism is negligence. Please read my blog, Sleep Issues Can Mean TMJ Issues.
DDS’s are great at treatment planning a custom night guard, all the while knowing it doesn’t always treat the problem or stop the behavior. On top of which, your dental insurance doesn’t cover the cost of a night guard, and depending on the kind, they can be very expensive. You would be extremely lucky if your dentist suggested trying an over the counter night guard, which is under $30!
Deal with Stress to Avoid a Night Guard
I always take the time with patients to discuss what could be causing their bruxism, and hence, any related TMJ issues. Sometimes awareness of the behavior combined with removing the source of it, i.e, stress, can be the only things needed to stop the bruxism. Unfortunately, a night guard is not a magic bullet; some people never get used to them, merely finding them on their pillow every morning. Ideally, like me, you want to be aware of your bruxism so you can prevent it.
Prevent Wearing a Night Guard with Behavior Modification
Many people can manage their bruxism with behavior modification, which I believe, is a crucial first step before jumping into a night guard.
Behavior modification for the prevention of bruxism is simply to allow your thoughts to imagine a relaxed jaw. You can use this technique anytime, before bed and during a stressful day. Your TMJ is in neutral position when your mandible is dropped to create a space between your teeth; if your teeth are touching the slightest your muscles tense up ready for action. Imagine the state of a peaceful meditation and repeat this mantra, “I am relaxed with my lips together and teeth apart.”
With behavior modification, you always want to think of the positive outcome; never state what you want in the negative, for example, don’t say, “Tonight I will not clench or grind.” Feel yourself completely relaxed with your jaw floating, and voila, if you state your intention, you’ll prevent bruxism, and if you do touch your teeth together you’ll catch yourself in the act, in which, all you need to do is repeat “Lips together, teeth apart.”
Over the Counter Night Guard
If relaxation and behavior modification techniques don’t work, you may want to try an over the counter night guard. Occasionally, rarely though, when I’m really stressed, I will put my night guard in while I’m reading in bed to force my TMJ into
Many patients end up loving their over the counter night guard and never need the dentist to customize one for them. Although, when your dentist recommends a night guard, try asking what might be the cause of your bruxism. If you