For many during the last year, waking up with a headache and jaw pain has become a routine occurrence. According to dental experts, and corroborated by a study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine by researchers at Tel Aviv University, the likely culprit is a rise in tooth grinding, or bruxism, caused by stress and anxiety. And while it is difficult to definitively draw a line between the two — the study, conducted in Israel and Poland, does draw this conclusion, but additional research is necessary — many are concluding that the root cause in this uptick of nighttime tooth grinding is none other than the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s no surprise that the last year spent dealing with the ramifications of COVID-19 would coincide with an increase in stress and anxiety. Between intermittent periods of lockdown, decreased social interaction, increases in unemployment, and the general feelings of fear created by COVID itself, an abundance of stress and anxiety manifesting in physical outlets such as nighttime teeth grinding and jaw clenching would be expected. Incidentally, the same issues with the pandemic have made it more likely for people to avoid going to the dentist. However, brushing off the effects of nighttime grinding is ill advised, as the act can have serious health consequences.
Why Night Grinding Should Be Taken Seriously
Outside of the headaches and jaw pain already mentioned, nighttime teeth grinding can wear away tooth enamel prematurely — and once tooth enamel is gone, it’s gone for good. Without enough enamel, teeth become more sensitive and brittle, prone to pain during eating and drinking, with an increased chance to chip, crack, or become infected. Teeth grinding in the night also directly leads to an increased chance of cracking a tooth or crown, which is not only an exceptionally painful issue to wake up to, but also an expensive issue to fix.
Besides stress and anxiety, nighttime teeth grinding and jaw clenching can point to a number of other underlying factors, as well. Gastroesophageal reflux issues, sleep apnea, and depression can all lead to grinding teeth, as can regularly taking certain brands of antidepressants. Overall, teeth grinding is rarely a siloed issue, and an additional cause is more often than not the true culprit.
How to Address Nighttime Teeth Grinding
If the tell-tale signs of nighttime teeth grinding are present, the next immediate step is to consult with a dental professional. A dentist can confirm that the issue is definitively teeth grinding, and help patients find additional tools to protect their teeth while sorting out the underlying issues.
One helpful tool for many teeth grinders, particularly for those grinding through the night, is an oral appliance such as a mouth guard. While it may be tempting to grab the first, cheapest over-the-counter mouthguard available, upgrading to a custom-molded mouthguard will be worth the investment. Generic mouthguards can be ill-fitting, and made of poorer-quality materials that break down at alarming rates. Because they have more limited sizing, generic mouthguards can also be odd or uncomfortable to wear, making it more difficult to sleep, and ultimately, a self-defeating device.
Custom mouthguards are crafted to fit an individual’s unique mouth shape and size, from a material that works and feels best to them, with longevity and durability in mind. Custom mouthguards won’t last forever, and it’s still suggested they be replaced every couple months or so to remain hygienic, but a well-made custom-fitted mouthguard can last anywhere from three to five years depending on the material and upkeep.
As with most items, cost is always a factor in determining which option is the best route for an individual to take. Custom mouthguards are available through dentist’s offices, but this route can be pricey and out of budget. Instead, consider a custom nightguard from Dental Lab Direct. Able to conveniently be ordered right from home, Dental Lab Direct supplies an impression kit free via mail so customers can simply create and mail-in their custom impression without needing to go through a dentist’s office or schedule an appointment. Once received, Dental Lab Direct’s state of the art lab can fabricate the unique mouthguard in three weeks, to be shipped out to customer’s directly.
Address the dental stress from COVID head-on, and order a protective, custom mouthguard from Dental Lab Direct. With a unique, personalized contour and comfortable material, customers are able to use their nightguard to reclaim their sleep schedules, and help banish unwanted stress, all while protecting their smile.