Skip to content
dental fillings

Bruxism and Nightguards: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Clenching or grinding your teeth while you’re asleep is pretty common among children and adults. But when it starts to cause headaches, tooth or jaw pain, or damage to your teeth, it’s time to talk to your dentist about bruxism. A common treatment for sleep bruxism is a night guard.

Maybe this has happened to you: you wake up and immediately feel a headache. Or, you’ve noticed your jaw is a little sore, or perhaps you’ve even had chipped or lose teeth. These are common signs of bruxism—or teeth grinding. Thankfully, your dentist at WHITE ALIGN are trained to look for signs of bruxism and help you with treatment. They may recommend a mouthguard to wear at night, an easy way to protect your teeth from damage from grinding and clenching.

Nightguards have many names. They are also called mouthguards, occlusal guards, dental guards, bite splints, or nocturnal bite plates. They are retainer-like soft or hard plastic pieces that cover either the top or bottom set of teeth. Nightguards are popular treatments for sleep bruxism. Nightguards cushion your teeth from the force of clenching and prevent the teeth from grinding together, preventing headaches, damaged teeth, and inflamed gums.

What is a Nightguard?

A nightguard is a retainer-like plastic piece that can be hard or soft. It covers the biting surfaces and can be worn on either the bottom or top set of teeth. Since patients have different teeth patterns, a nightguard is custom-made for each patient by molding it to fit your teeth without the risk of being uncomfortable or unnecessarily bulky.

What is Sleep Bruxism?

Habitual grinding or clenching of teeth, either during sleep or as an unconscious habit during waking hours, is known as Bruxism and commonly called as Teeth Grinding. Bruxism is not a life-threatening disorder but it affects the quality of life by causing dental problems, such as tooth wear, tooth sensitivity, facial pain etc., bruxism may give rise to facial pain and headache. Still, if it’s frequent enough to cause issues with your teeth or jaw, it’s time to speak to a dental professional.

Common Signs of Sleep Bruxism

Talk to your dentist at WHITE ALIGN about the following signs and symptoms:

  • Chipped teeth
  • Waking up with headaches
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorder—inflammation of the jaw due to clenching
  • Taking antidepressants with paroxetine
  • Chronic grinding
  • Unexplained damage to your teeth – From the wearing down of your toothenamel to damage to restorations, like fillings or crowns.
  • You (and those around you) suffer from sleep disruption.
  • You notice clicking and popping sounds when you open your mouth.
  • You experience tooth pain or jaw soreness.
  • You’re having difficulty chewing, as though your upper and lower teeth aren’t fitting together properly.
  • There are signs of damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek.

Sleep Bruxism in Children

It is common for children to grind their teeth at some point, especially children under five. Most children outgrow teeth grinding without treatment, with no harm to their teeth. Still, your dentist may recommend treatment depending on the severity of the bruxism.

Importance of Getting the Right Nightguard

Prevent Plaque Development

Despite the similarity in names, you should not confuse a sports mouth guard with the one designed for preventing teeth grinding and clenching. A sports mouth guard will do more harm than good. It covers the teeth and gums as it is meant to protect them from blunt force trauma. If worn at night, it traps bacteria on the gum’s surface while you sleep since saliva can’t get to the gums while wearing a sports mouth guard. 

Saliva helps to neutralize acids that can cause cavities and washes away food particles hence preventing plaque development. Therefore, it is best to consult an oral hygiene professional when looking for a nightguard to avoid damaging your teeth. It is important to note that some nightguards come with holes to allow saliva to access your teeth. Thus, a dentist will provide you with the right design depending on the condition of your teeth.

Prevent Changing Your Bite

A nightguard is usually fitted precisely to your teeth and bite because its aim is to protect the surfaces from grinding against each other. Since sports mouthguards are soft and made of a thicker rubbery material they are not designed to fit your bite. Softer material will cause you to chew while sleeping as the brain interprets it to be food. This may cause muscle discomfort and mat prematurely wear through the soft material. If you choose to wear a sports mouthguard at night, it would cause your bite to shift with time. The effect would manifest itself after a while when your bite changes.

Types of Nightguards

The American Sleep Association classifies nightguards depending on the materials from which they are made:

Hard Nightguards

These are made from acrylic and are used to treat TMJ and severe teeth grinding and clenching cases. As the muscles relax, the bite changes due to the lower jaw positioning itself in a healthy centric position. Adjustments to the bite on the guard will help your muscles and jaw relax.Since hard nightguards are made from a firm material, they are the most durable type.


These offer a personalized solution since they are made using the impression of your teeth.  A dentist uses professional materials and techniques to come up with a nightguard just for you hence are more comfortable. With the proper care and adjustments, these are durable enough to last for several years.

What to Consider When Choosing Between a Lower or Upper Nightguard

Since a nightguard can be worn on either the top or bottom set of teeth, you might wonder which is best for you for maximum protection against grinding. Some of the factors you should consider when making that decision are:


An uncomfortable nightguard will likely not go in your mouth as you dread wearing it; hence it will not benefit you. Remember that you will be spending the night with a device in the mouth; hence comfort should be top of your list. If you grind your teeth subconsciously during the day, you should go for a lower mouthguard. It is less visible, and you most probably don’t want to attract attention. Also, if you have a sensitive gag reflex, a lower nightguard is suitable.

However, an upper nightguard is usually more intrusive because it is bigger and bulkier than the lower nightguard.

Teeth Condition

The condition of your teeth should play a part in helping you decide the ideal nightguard. Since a custom-made nightguard is made from your teeth impression, you should choose the set that does not have too many teeth missing or crooked. That way, you will have a better fit.

Five Main Reasons to Wear a Nightguard

Prevent Teeth Damage

Since teeth grinding happens when you are not in control, the more it happens, the more you subject your teeth to loss of enamel. Enamel erosion causes over-sensitivity. As a result, your mouth may barely stand hot or cold beverages and food. Additionally, without enamel protecting your teeth, your teeth become more susceptible to decay. When the decay continues into the hard enamel of the teeth, you are likely to develop infections. 

Teeth grinding also causes damage by fracturing a weak tooth and wearing out any fillings. The surface of the teeth can handle the pressure associated with chewing and biting, but the additional pressure from clenching and grinding is not sustainable. As a result, the tooth fractures or cracks. Besides suffering the excruciating pain that comes with tooth fracture, you will have to make trips to the dentists for treatment. Sometimes the dentist can do a filling but you may end up needing more costly treatment like crowns, root canals or tooth loss. Tooth loss can be fixed through bridges or implants.

Prevents Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the jaw and the skull and affects the muscles you use to chew. As you clench your teeth in your sleep, you apply pressure into the TMJ, which can cause misalignment. When misaligned, you develop TMJ dysfunction. The disorder causes difficulty in chewing, pain around and in your ear, and even headaches. You may also damage the articular disk which is irreparable and can cause disk displacement. This can lead to your jaw unexpectedly locking open or closed which may lead to a trip to the ER. Wearing a nightguard prevents the disorder’s development because it eases any tension you can cause on the muscles.

Prevent Chronic Headaches

Chronic neck aches and headaches are usually the first symptoms of possible bruxism since TMJ dysfunction manifests itself through migraines.  The tensed muscles in the neck, shoulders, mouth, and jaw cause headaches. However, before you rush to diagnose yourself as suffering from bruxism, you can check that the headaches are indeed being caused by teeth grinding and clenching. One way is to look at the surface of the teeth; if instead of being pointed, they have flattened, most likely, you grind your teeth in your sleep. Another way is to look for a recession of gum and bone which can happen because of clenching. A custom-made nightguard eliminates headaches because you no longer have to tense up the muscles. 

Saves Money

When you compare the cost of a nightguard with the cost of restorative dentistry, the former is cheaper. Once your teeth wear out and get fractures, restorative dentistry will be the only way out for your dental problems. Fillings, crowns, tooth loss, which can be replaced with implants, and fixing your bite are costly.

Seek a Professional’s Help 

Unless you visit a professional who can diagnose you with bruxism, it is hard to know if the headaches, tooth sensitivity, or TMJ are due to teeth grinding and clenching in your sleep. Besides, dentists recommend a custom-made nightguard, and there is no way to get that without an oral hygiene specialist’s help. 

WHITE ALIGN DENTAL CARE BEST DENTAL CLINIC IN DELHI SOUTH offers a wide range of dental services, including general, restorative, orthodontics, and cosmetic, among many more. Our team will advise you on whether you need a nightguard and treat any dental issues you may have at a fair cost. Contact us today to schedule your appointment. 

To book an appointment with us at, ‘White Align Dental Care’– call us on +91- 8411813531. We pride ourselves to have the best cosmetic dentist in South Delhi. You can also mail us on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Call Now Button