Everyone seems to be experiencing just a little extra stress these days. And we all deal with it in our own unique ways. While grinding our teeth is certainly a less destructive outlet than others I can think of, it’s not without effects that can cause permanent damage to our teeth and jaws. Most often, if we grind or clench our teeth, it is something we do absolutely unconsciously while sleeping. You may become aware of it if your partner tells you they can hear it or if you tend to have soreness in your jaws in the morning. However, sometimes you are not even aware of this habit, called bruxism, until your dentist notices the damage it has caused to your teeth. Those of us who grind will develop flattened facets on the bite surfaces of our teeth, representing wear that has actually shortened the tooth and begun the process of collapsing the bite. Because grinding and clenching put lots of additional force on our teeth, it actually causes them to flex at the junction of the crown and root portions of the tooth. This repeated flexing will cause rods of enamel at that junction to fracture away (a process called abfraction) and the delicate ligaments of gum tissue to detach from the root surface. This process results in receded gums, notched teeth that may become sensitive due to missing protective enamel, and increased susceptibility to decay. Once the habit is identified, you can prevent further damage to your teeth and bite by having your dentist fabricate a mouthguard. An occlusal mouthguard is made of durable plastic that is custom fitted to your teeth. It snaps securely over either arch and provides a protective boundary between the upper and lower teeth while you are sleeping. The mouthguards that we make at our office have a hard layer of outer plastic for durability and a softer inner layer to provide comfort and shock absorption to prevent those extra forces from transmitting to the opposing teeth. While it may not be a cure for all that stress, a mouthguard can prevent bruxism from contributing more stress to your life.