What is clenching and grinding the teeth?

Everyone clenches or grinds their teeth a little bit at night. The people who we say do it are the people we see significant wear patterns on the teeth or have pain in the jaw joint or muscles. So some people might call this TMJ or TMJD, clenching or grinding, or bruxism. These are all terms for this.

What is a night guard?

A night guard is a piece of plastic. It's a little thicker retainer that goes on one arch, top or bottom. That way when you're clenching or grinding the teeth at night, you wear it on the plastic and not your teeth. This protective reflex to keep you from breaking your teeth is not happening at night. People put excessive forces on their teeth at night, usually in response to stress.

What happens if clenching and grinding is left untreated?

If left untreated, you're going to wear down the tooth. I've seen patients wear down half their teeth. I've seen them wear it down into the nerve, so it can cause a significant problem. At that point, to fix it, you're looking at a full mouth reconstruction. This entails restoring the entire mouth crown, every tooth in the mouth. That's a $50,000 treatment.

What are the benefits of a night guard?

A $300 piece of plastic, which might be 100% covered by your insurance, might save you thousands of dollars down the road. The way I look at it is if it saves you even one tooth from breaking, one crown, it's already paid for itself twice over. A night guard will also act as a retainer. So if you've had orthodontic treatment, you've lost your retainer, there are signs of wear, that would be another indication to go to a guard.

What if I can't tolerate a guard?

If you can't tolerate a guard or it's not right for you, Botox is a great option. We do therapeutic Botox at my office in the jaw joint and muscles. It feels great. Botox is very effective, but for better or worse, it's only going to last a couple of months. It might break your pain cycle for up to a year, but every three months, the therapeutic effect of the Botox, which basically freezes the muscle, will be worn out.

How much does Botox cost?

Botox at my office is $14 a unit currently. This is recorded in March of 2024. You need 10 or 15 units in each side minimum to get a therapeutic effect. It works very well, but over an extended period of time, it can get expensive, which is why I always recommend a guard as a first line therapy.

If you have any more questions or are interested in a night guard, give us a call at the office at (703) 451-4500.