There has been an increase in patients with tooth fractures since the start of the pandemic, and much of it is related to bruxism, or tooth grinding. Exacerbated by stress and anxiety, bruxism is largely subconscious and often occurs during sleep. Most people don’t know they grind their teeth unless their dentist tells them so, usually based on tooth wear. Less obvious indicators include ringing in the ears, neck pain, wearing away of teeth, premature aging of the face as the jaw collapses due to tooth wear, TMJ issues, and headaches.
In many of these types of cases, nightguards are prescribed and recommended and have led to a new and interesting debate across different professions.
Recently, I came across an article in a well know publication that stated “while nightguards may help prevent some dental wear and tear, some studies suggest they can be ineffective or even make the problem worse. This has led some experts in the fields of dentistry, neuroscience, psychology, and orthopedics to say there needs to be a paradigm shift in our understanding of the cause and treatment of bruxism. They say it is a behavior, like yawing, belching, or sneezing, rather than a disorder”. This article then goes on to quote a “bruxism researcher” and other titles not worth mentioning here that says “In fact, it can be good for you”. Honestly, I have never been more pissed off at something I read online. Not only does it suggest that an expert in one field has any type of understanding in another (it would be like me, who treats TMD all day having an “expert” opinion on PTSD, epilepsy, or even car mechanics), but it further implies that bruxism, a pathological condition related to jaw misalignment and years of pain has any relationship to yawning or sneezing. And truly, Dr. Frank, how the $#%! Can tooth grinding actually be “good for you”!?!?
This article then goes on to state: “Clenching and grinding also stimulate salivary glands to lubricate a dry mouth and neutralize gastric acid. As a result, experts say it can be dangerous to wear a night guard or splint if you have sleep apnea”… WT… Seriously??? Has this person never read any studies on how sleep apnea appliances actually work? Then the recommendations follow: “Perhaps a physical therapist who can teach you how to relax your jaw and do abdominal breathing. And maybe a psychologist can help you modify behaviors that lead to an increase in bruxism, like eating too much before bed and drinking more than your share of wine and whiskey”. Yes, let’s just blame it on something we can then recommend long sessions of therapy for. And it just keeps going….She recommends “continually checking to make sure you are breathing through your nose with your mouth closed, your tongue resting on the roof of your mouth, and your teeth apart. Set a timer if you need to remind yourself or do it every time you stop at a red light or get a text alert”. Honestly, if I didn’t grind my teeth before all these recommendations, I certainly would if I had to implement all of them.
In a nutshell, jokes aside, nothing like a poorly researched and biased article to mess up the people reading it. If you suffer from TMD and the many debilitating symptoms that screw up your life, just know this: it is not like yawning or sneezing, ever ever ever; you do not need to change your food or drink or check your breathing constantly, and you certainly do not need to set any timers for text alerts. All you need is someone who understands TMD, and clearly not an “expert”, to help you diagnose, document, and treatment plan your condition. Then start treatment that is science-based, well researched, and most of all resolve your symptoms rather than blame you for them.
About Dr. Agatha Bis
Dr. Agatha Bis, DDS received her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Western Ontario in 1996. With over 25 years of clinical experience creating beautiful and healthy smiles, Dr. Bis offers a unique approach to dentistry, blending modern dental practices with the use of digital technology to optimize health outcomes. With thousands of hours in post-graduate training, her unique focus and expertise in treating TMD and providing options in restorative dentistry, along with digital technology have led to helping numerous patients resolve chronic and debilitating dental challenges.