Night guards are oral appliances that help various problems, but they’re not always the obvious solution. If you’re having symptoms like morning headaches, shoulder and neck pain, and facial muscle discomfort, your body may be crying out for a little night guard help.
Each of these issues could mean your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is out of alignment. Or, you may be one of the millions of people who suffer from a condition called bruxism, better known as teeth grinding.
Both of these diagnoses can be treated by a specialist, but you can reduce the symptoms with a night guard. The question is, how do you know if your symptoms are related to your jaw, your grinding, or something else?
One way is to try a night guard and see if those annoying and painful side effects go away. Is it time to get a night guard? Check out these signs that you should be adding one to your bedtime routine soon.
- Your Teeth Are Sensitive
Let’s start out by saying there are many, many reasons why you could have sensitive teeth. However, if you know your oral hygiene skills are on point, your gums aren’t bleeding, and you still have enamel issues, the problem might be due to grinding.
When you have bruxism, you are unconsciously grinding and clenching your jaw. This usually happens at night, but some people have awake bruxism, too, and they exhibit these behaviors when they’re extra anxious.
Your jaw clenches tight on your teeth and grinds together without your awareness to stop it. The damage from this results in your tooth enamel wearing down.
You’ll notice that even your restorations, such as crowns and fillings, become damaged, too. A night guard reduces the connection between your upper and lower teeth and prevents this damage from occurring.
- You Have Regular Tension Headaches
Headaches also stem from a myriad of origins. For instance, if you suffer from migraines, you know the pain seems like it’s everywhere. Sinus headaches are usually centralized to the sides of the head, near the sinus passages.
But tension headaches are another story. The most common headache in the world, this type of pain expands from the neck into the head and scalp. It’s frequently triggered by muscle tightness due to stress or tension.
When your neck, shoulders, and facial muscles “tense up,” your head suffers. With bruxism, you’re overworking those muscles as you grind in your sleep, so you probably feel that tension headache when you wake up. If your morning headaches are becoming regular occurrences, you may need a night guard.
- Your Jaw is Making Unusual Noises
You’ve been around loud chewers, and they can be annoying. We’re not talking about that kind of noise for this symptom.
The unusual noises that should concern you are when your jaw starts popping and clicking when you open your mouth. This sound could mean that your TMJ is out of alignment.
A temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) occurs when the joints that connect your jawbone and skull are swollen or out of place. Because the TMJ acts like a hinge, you move that joint every time you talk, chew, or yawn. When it’s not working right, it can get pretty painful.
TMD problems require specialized care to ensure they don’t get worse. In the meantime, a custom-fit night guard can help minimize the symptoms.
- Chewing Isn’t As Easy As It Once Was
We’re all getting older, and as we do, we notice changes in our bodies. One thing that shouldn’t change is how you chew. Once you get your adult teeth in and have gone through the years of orthodontic appliances, your teeth are what they are. If they’re painful or moving, there’s a problem.
So, if you catch yourself regularly biting your cheek when you chew, or your upper and lower teeth don’t feel like they’re connecting right, something isn’t normal. It could be that your nighttime habits of grinding and clenching are moving your teeth around.
Before things get worse, visit your dentist or orthodontist for x-rays. While you’re waiting for your appointment, get a night guard to prevent further damage.
When your teeth are sensitive, your upper back and neck muscles hurt, and you’re noticing jaw issues, there’s an excellent chance a night guard is in your future. Look for a custom-made guard that you can wear comfortably, and give it a try. With consistent use, you might make those painful side effects disappear!