It’s not uncommon for a person to occasionally clench their teeth or even grind them from time to time. But teeth grinding, or bruxism, can be detrimental if it’s done on a regular basis. Typically, teeth grinding is done at night when the person may not even be aware of what’s going on. It’s common for underlying factors, such as stress and anxiety, to be the source of teeth grinding, but most of the time it’s due to an abnormal bite or missing and/or crooked teeth.
Because teeth grinding is most often done during sleep, it can be difficult to tell whether or not you have a grinding problem. Waking up with jaw pain or a minor headache is a telltale sign, as is your significant other hearing you doing it as you sleep. So if you suspect that you do have a teeth-grinding problem, it’s important to consult with your dentist, as any prolonged grinding can result in the likes of:
- Fractured, loose, worn or damaged teeth,
- More crowns, root canals and bridges,
- And in more serious cases, dentures, chronic jaw pain, hearing loss and a worsening of the TMJ and TMD joints.
Thankfully, teeth grinding isn’t difficult to correct – and two popular treatment options are a bite guard or bite balancing. Here’s a look at the similarities and differences between the two corrective dental measures:
Bite Guards 101
In a nutshell, a bite guard is a dental appliance that’s worn at night to prevent the teeth from grinding. Bit guards are typically made of acrylic, a soft material that’s harmless to the teeth. Bite guards also redistribute force across the whole bite, putting the bite in a new position. Eventually, the brain will get used to this new bite position and teeth grinding will cease to the point where the guard no longer needs to be worn.
Bite Balancing 101
Also known as “occlusal equilibration,” this is a process that attempts to even out a patient’s bite by reshaping it until it is balanced and stable. The process can be completed in a matter of hours.
While bite guards and bite balancing have the same end goal – eliminating teeth grinding – the means of how they get there are different. Both options require a mold to be taken of the teeth. In the case of a bite guard, it’s so the guard can be made to properly fit. For bite balancing, it’s so the bite can be analyzed and corrected.
As previously noted, bite guards are typically worn at night to prevent the teeth from grinding, while eventually correcting the grinding behavior over a period of several weeks, months or even years. Bite balancing is much faster fix, as a patient’s bite can be adjusted in just a couple of hours. Follow up appointments may be necessary to monitor progress or make any additional adjustments after a bite balancing, but generally speaking the process is much quicker than wearing a bite guard.
Another factor to consider when it comes to the bite guard vs. bite balancing debate is the cost. Typically, it only costs a couple of hundred dollars for a custom bite guard to be made. Bite balancing, on the other hand, can cost in the thousands. Depending on the insurance plan and how much a patient may have to pay out of pocket is certainly a consideration when it comes to selecting a treatment option.
It’s estimated that up to 38 percent of all children and up to 20 percent of all adults grind their teeth at night. So if you suspect that there may be a problem, call our office and set up an appointment today. Bruxism is very correctable with either of the two aforementioned treatments – it’s just a matter of recognizing the problem and doing something about it.
Contact our practice today for more information on bruxism and bite guards and bite balancing treatments.