The habitual clenching and grinding of one’s teeth, also known as bruxism, is a very common condition affecting millions of Americans. Many times, people are unaware that they clench or grind, and the diagnosis is usually made by a dentist when uneven wear of the enamel surfaces is noticed. Other times, the condition is diagnosed from a patient’s complaint of pain or soreness in their cheeks and jaws, which is typically either muscle or joint pain caused by bruxism. To protect the teeth, and to reduce the symptoms of bruxism, a nightguard is often the first line of treatment recommended by a dentist. In our office, impressions of the teeth are taken, and a dental lab then fabricates an appliance that is custom fit to the patient’s mouth. A nightguard is worn while sleeping since the majority of the damage to the teeth and the joints occurs during sleep, when people are unable to control their clenching and grinding.
Although drug stores will stock their shelves with over-the-counter nightguards, I almost never recommend them. Essentially they are just a variation of boil-and-bite mouthpieces that athletes wear during contact sports. Two negatives to over-the-counter nightguards are their less than ideal fit and their bulkiness. More importantly, if the fit is not adjusted properly by a dentist, it is possible to harm oneself or worsen the condition. Anyone who has tried an over-the-counter nightguard, only to see no improvement (or worsening) of their symptoms, should consider a professionally made nightguard. The cost varies depending on which type is made, but typically we charge $325 for most nightguards, considerably less than many offices. Insurance benefits may cover a portion of the cost depending on the plan.