Unclenching Jaws: Cooper Moss Dentistry Gives Options for Teeth Grinders

Dr. Bruce Cooper of Cooper Moss Advanced Dentistry understands people who grind their teeth at night, and not just because he’s a dentist. Like a lot of his patients, Cooper has the inadvertent habit, one that can be controlled during the day but takes over at night when our conscious mind is asleep.

The issue is stress related for some, he says. “We’re living in a stressful society and when we’re anxious, it’s a way to get relief,” Cooper explains. Dental disease or misaligned bites can be other contributing factors. “If a bite is not ideal with the musculature and the joint, the natural tendency is to try to work that out,” he adds.

Symptoms of teeth grinding include worn teeth, jaw and headache pain, periodontal disease, and bone loss. Another major clue is grinding your teeth while awake. “If you’re aware of clenching or grinding your teeth in any circumstances during the day, sleep studies show a 100 percent correlation with doing it during sleep,” says Cooper.

At Cooper Moss Advanced Dentistry, Cooper and his colleagues provide a variety of options for those wrestling with the problem and its effects. The most common is a nighttime appliance that is typically worn on the upper arch and fits over the upper teeth. “It helps to stabilize the teeth and alleviate wear,” says Cooper. “It won’t stop the grinding, but the teeth are better supported, and the acrylic gets worn, not the enamel on your teeth.” Among patients who wear a nighttime appliance, many report a decrease in muscular tension.

Lifestyle also plays a role, he notes.  Decreasing nicotine and alcohol consumption can reduce some of the psychosomatic factors that create grinding and improve overall sleep.

If tooth alignment is part of the issue, Cooper will refer patients to an orthodontist who can decrease wear by improving the patient’s bite. More severe cases may be directed to myofascial pain clinics affiliated with the University of Washington Medical Center. “For about half a dozen patients per year, a simple appliance isn’t going to get us there,” says Cooper. “We have other resources available. Sleep studies can be helpful.”

Most patients appreciate the changes that come from using an appliance. “Once they get used to it and see the benefit, the feedback I get is positive,” says Cooper. “They’re ready to get a new one when the time comes.”

For more information, visit the Cooper Moss Dentistry website or call 360-357-8075.