Patients are often surprised to learn that they’ve been grinding their teeth at night. Most people who grind their teeth don’t even realize it because they’re busy sleeping while it’s happening. Studies estimate that nearly 90% of us are grinding and clenching our teeth at night.
There are several signs one can look for to determine if you are grinding your teeth at night.
- First check your lower and upper front teeth. They may look flat, chipped and show wear. Those are tell tale signs of grinding
- Sometimes when looking closely you can even see little hairline cracks running up and down the front teeth.
- Some people grind more on their back teeth. Upon examination the molars they may look ground down and flat.
- Gum recession and loss of enamel at the gum line. Often times there is so much pressure transmitted down to the gums that it causes the gums to recede. This can create sensitivity to hot and cold. On examination we can see the darker roots exposed where the gums used to cover them.
- A cracked tooth. Sometimes heavy bruxers will come to the office complaining of pain. The amount of pressure they exerted actually cracked the tooth or irreversibly damaged the nerve inside the tooth. In these situations, a root canal or tooth extraction is required to alleviate the pain.
More serious problems can develop if teeth grinding and clenching remains untreated; such as jaw pain, headaches, and neck tension.
Traditionally, dentists would create large fitting night guards that were bulky and uncomfortable. Although full arch night guards provide maximum protection. Most people would not tolerate sleeping with a large piece of acrylic in their mouth. Many patients complained that “the night guard is too big to wear when trying to sleep.”
The NTI is a new type of night guard I’ve been offering to patients for the past few years. NTIs are actually 10 times smaller than the traditional night guards. The NTI only covers the four front teeth, rather than the entire arch. It’s custom made so it stays in place perfectly all night. Several hundred of our patients are now wearing one and are perfectly happy with their smaller night guards. Many dental insurance companies will even cover night guards because they realize how destructive grinding your teeth can be.