If you grind your teeth at night, you’ve probably been told that there’s only one fix: wearing a night guard. After all, what else are you supposed to do? It’s not like there’s a cure for doing things in your sleep.
Or is there?
The Jaw is Built to Avoid Grinding
As we well know, teeth can be unpredictable; orthodontists wouldn’t have day jobs if misaligned teeth were rare. But for all of the dental disarray that you see, there’s still an ideal bite pattern (and resulting jaw alignment) that your teeth are “supposed” to achieve. And that bite pattern makes it really hard to grind your teeth.
By distributing your resting jaw tension in a way that short-circuits unconscious clenching.
Your front teeth and your rear teeth aren’t just functionally different; they’re wired differently, too. Molars are built for grinding food and the nerves attached to them don’t care much about pressure signals. Incisors, though? They’re built to cut, and they’re wired to send a great big “NO” signal when they clamp down on something that’s too hard for them.
In an ideal bite pattern, the teeth align in a way where pressure on the front incisors interrupts unconscious jaw clenching. This keeps the jaw relaxed, limits tooth wear, and prevents headaches, all without conscious intervention. Which is great for people with naturally perfect teeth.
But you don’t have to be perfect in order to enjoy all of that.
Dental Cosmetics Can Keep You From Grinding Your Teeth
Dental cosmetics can help you adjust your bite pattern by changing the height and profile of your teeth. Bridges and implants fix asymmetrical bite patterns, and even simple veneers can have a positive impact. Since adjusting your bite pattern changes how force is distributed through your teeth, dental cosmetics can keep you from grinding your teeth. They aren’t just visual upgrades!
If you’re frustrated by the (often literal) headaches that come with grinding your teeth and you’ve considered dental cosmetics in other scenarios, talk to Dr. Halsema about how you may be able to kill two birds with one stone. She will be able to assess your bite pattern and, through the use of bite molds and x-ray imaging, develop a plan that addresses all of your concerns.
Does This Mean You Can Ditch Your Retainer?
It doesn’t. Not permanently, at least.
If you’re a chronic grinder and you don’t have a retainer, you’re not going to escape it. Retainers aren’t just night time tooth protectors; they also help you train away bad habits and change your jaw posture over time. At the end of the day, you need to treat your retainer like any other training or maintenance task; regularity is the only solution.
Addressing the underlying factors that contribute to grinding your teeth will make things a lot more comfortable, however, and that’s invaluable. Talk to Dr. Halsema; there’s a lot that she can do to help.