What is bruxism?

Bruxism is the clenching and grinding of teeth. It occurs primarily while you sleep. The forces transmitted to the teeth during bruxism are many times greater than the forces produced during normal chewing. We know that bruxism is related to stress,whether the stress is environmental, psychological, or systemic. Moreover, recent data suggests that bruxism may also be related to chemical changes in the brain as we age. We know that nearly everyone bruxes. However, the frequency and duration of the tooth grinding varies greatly from one individual to another. Even though dentistry understands the problems created by bruxism, we have no method to cure it. However, with a managed care approach, 16 years of clinical results show that bruxism can at least be controlled. A nightguard can offer protection from the damage created by bruxism.

The symptoms of teeth grinding.

Do your jaw muscles sometimes feel tired when you awake? Does your jaw seem stiff and difficult to open wide? When you use dental floss, are the contacts tight some days and loose on others? Are your teeth sometimes sensitive to cold liquids? Has your toothbrush ever produced a sharp jolt when it contacted the root surface near the gumline? Do you see grooves on your canines or other teeth? Are your front teeth becoming shorter, appear flat or have edges and tiny chips? These observations are typical of bruxism.

Types of nightguards:

Several types of nightguards can be made. Some are better than others.

A soft, resilient athletic mouthguard is sometimes used as a nightguard against bruxism. It is inexpensive, but has many undesirable features. The bite cannot be adjusted on these devices, and the resilient material often creates sore jaw joints and muscles. The expected life of these devices is ususlly less than one year.

Hard plastic appliances that offer partial coverage of the teeth in one arch are also used as nightguards. Some have plastic covering the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, some are worn on the upper jaw, others on the lower jaw. Other designs have plastic covering some of the palate and the back sides of the upper front teeth.

After working with several designs in the early 1980's, I have found one design that alleviates or substantially reduces the symptoms of bruxism in about 9 out of every 10 patients who use a specific type of nightguard.

How are nightguards made?

At the first appointment, we make very accurate impressions of your upper and lower teeth. The impressions are used to create models of how your teeth fit together (occlusion). This bite record enables us to transfer your models onto a dental articulator that will simulate your grinding movements. Our dental technician then fabricates a custom wax replica of your nightguard and duplicates it in a heat-processed hard plastic. At the second appointment, we finalize the fit of the nightguard in your mouth and adjust the biting contacts against the nightguard. You are then ready to wear your custom nightguard while sleeping.


The lifespan of full arch nightguards can vary from five to ten years. The dental fee for this type of custom nightguard is much less than the fee charged for a crown or cap. It is an excellent investment, because it protects the teeth not only in the arch covered by the nightguard, but also in the arch that grinds against the nightguard, helping to avoid teeth from wearing and fracturing. Remember that your nightguard can only offer protection from bruxism if you wear it regularly.

cosmetic bonding to cover chips, cracks and stains
natural looking crowns
bridges and implants
root canal therapy
professional cleanings and regular checkups
full and partial dentures
nightguards: protection from teeth grinding
tooth-coloured non-mercury fillings
teeth whitening (bleaching)
protective mouth guards
oral hygiene maintenance

Even healthy foods like milk and bananas have natural sugars that should be cleared away by brushing or rinsing.

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