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Occlusal Guard: Protection from Unintentional Teeth Grinding

gum in pain

Why is an Occlusal Guard Important?

Pain. Pain is one of the most common reasons that a patient comes into our Better Dental practice. And there are numerous factors that can contribute to pain.

The mouth moves in two ways. The first is functional movement – which is purposeful movement such as speaking, chewing, and eating.

The second way the mouth moves is what we call parafunctional movement. These habits are abnormal actions, usually performed unconsciously and unintendedly. These habits include actions such as clinching, bruxing (grinding), or biting one’s fingers or nails. Parafunctional habits are one of the top reasons that patients experience pain in the mouth, head, and neck.

According to current dental literature, 20-41% of patients experience some type of parafunctional movement on a daily basis. These movements can contribute to pain by causing the muscles of mastication (chewing) and the muscles of facial expression to be over stimulated and in a constant state of contraction. They can also contribute to pain by causing unwanted, damaging forces to teeth, roots, and various restorations in the mouth. Forces such as these can lead to fractured teeth and damaged dental restorations and appliances. Lastly, they can contribute to lacerations and damage to various soft tissues in the mouth such as the tongue, cheeks, and surrounding gingiva.

There are several methods to treat parafunctional habits. The most common and conservative option that we utilize in our practice at Better Dental is the fabrication of an occlusal guard.

An occlusal guard or bite guard is a custom fitted appliance made of a high strength polymer or resin that is fabricated to prevent the teeth from contacting each other and prevent contraction and firing of the muscles of mastication while a patient is clinching or grinding. Parafunctional movements can occur while a patient is awake or asleep. If the movements are occurring while a patient is asleep, most do not recognize when they are experiencing these types of movements. Some common symptoms that occur when parafunctional movement is present are pain in the jaw joints, especially in the morning after waking up, dull headaches and migraine-like symptoms that are not worsened by light or sound, or daytime drowsiness that cannot be attributed to a lack of sleep.

If you are experiencing any symptoms similar to the ones described above, or if you just have a nagging pain in your head, mouth, or neck regions that cannot be explained or solved by anything else, stop by our office for an evaluation and to see if an occlusal guard may be helpful to you.

Sources:
  1. Alharby A, Alzayer H, Almahlawi A, et al. Parafunctional Behaviors and Its Effect on Dental
  2. Bridges. J Clin Med Res. 2018;10(2):73–76. doi:10.14740/jocmr3304w
  3. Demjaha G, Kapusevska B, Pejkovska-Shahpaska B. Bruxism Unconscious Oral Habit in
  4. Everyday Life. Open Access Maced J Med Sci. 2019;7(5):876–881. Published 2019 Mar 14. doi:10.3889/oamjms.2019.196
Tim Gibson
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