From nightguards to orthodontics, occlusal therapy supports lasting comfort and healthy oral function

“Occlusal” refers to the relationship between the upper teeth to the opposing teeth in the lower jaw when patients bite down or close their mouths. Occlusal diseases or conditions include malocclusion, characterized by an overbite, underbite, and other bite problems. Any time there are imbalances in the smile, teeth may be “stressed” due to the uneven pressure and wear and tear. Some teeth are not designed to handle the excessive forces that they must sustain. Such imbalances also stress associated oral structures and tissues, including the TM joints. 

Nightguards at Westlake Family Dentistry 

From our Lake Oswego, Oregon practice, Dr. Brad Sievert may recommend nightguards as a form of occlusal therapy. There are a variety of oral appliances or “mouthguards” that can be designed and customized to your mouth’s specifications and to address your unique treatment needs. Nightguards as an oral appliance are often referred to as such because patients may suffer from a common condition known as “bruxism.” This condition is identified by teeth grinding and jaw clenching, usually when a patient is at rest (“nocturnal bruxism”). Chronic bruxism can make the teeth vulnerable to chips, cracks, and other types of damage. Additionally, behaviors such as grinding the teeth can also stress the TM (temporomandibular) joints. 

Temporomandibular Joints (TMJ’s) connect the skull to the jaws on either side of the face. They support smooth jaw movements by functioning like hinges. Any time these joints are stressed, a host of undesirable symptoms can arise, from jaw stiffness to facial pain and migraines. In addition to malocclusion and bruxism, TMJ symptoms may be caused by arthritis, habits like chewing gum or regularly consuming chewy foods, joint trauma, jaw injuries, and worn-down restorations. 

When worn as directed, nightguards protect the teeth from damage caused by bruxism. They also cushion the blow to the joints and related structures from chronic teeth-grinding. Other occlusal guards or splints are designed to prevent the back teeth from touching when you grind your teeth. In this manner, the teeth and dental work are protected, and your joints and interconnected tissues do not sustain the full impact of bruxism. 

Getting to the root cause of your symptoms

By addressing the cause of your TMJ symptoms, we can provide real, lasting relief from pain and other potentially debilitating problems. So, oral appliances and other therapies are a great alternative to medications that merely resolve symptoms and don’t treat the actual condition. In addition to nightguards and oral splints, Dr. Sievert may recommend orthodontic treatment to correct crowding or bite issues. Depending on what he finds during an evaluation at our Lake Oswego practice, new restorations may be recommended to better support healthy, balanced function. Still, other therapies may include exercises to strengthen the jaw muscles or modifications to diet and habits that may lead to impaired functionality and pain. 

Schedule your evaluation today. Call Westlake Family Dentistry at (503) 386-4164.