Can I Wear Aligners If I Grind or Clench My Teeth?

1 January 2022

Most people who clench or grind their teeth are able to use aligners. In fact, aligners can even protect the teeth from some of the damage of clenching and grinding. 

In some cases, aligners even address the root cause of the issue and help you stop the clenching altogether. 

Aligners are medical devices, and countless people use them every year to optimize their smiles. It’s very rare that people who clench or grind their teeth are not able to effectively use aligners. 

What Is Tooth Grinding? 

Bruxism is a fancy word that means "tooth grinding." If you need a nightguard to keep your teeth far apart at night, it’s likely that you clench or grind your teeth. 

Your jaws nestle together perfectly, and you tap them together to eat, talk, and swallow. But some people press their teeth together with great force, and that can cause ongoing and lasting damage. 

Some people clench their teeth together tightly throughout the day. Others press their teeth together at night. In general, night-time grinding causes more damage than daytime gritting. 

Night-time tooth grinders can't control their actions, and some apply up to 250 pounds of force while they're sleeping. 

You may not realize that you're gritting your teeth at night. But you might awaken each morning with telltale grinding signs, such as: 

  • Pain. Muscles put to the test all night long can be tender and sore the next day. You might feel this as a headache, earache, or facial tenderness. 
  • Sensitivity. Rub your teeth together with great force, and protective enamel can wear away. Hot or cold drinks could cause intense pain. 
  • Popping. The temporomandibular joint within your jaw can grow sore with tooth grinding. You might hear a pop or click when you open or close your mouth. 

Some people make no noise at all while they grind their teeth. But others make an audible and unforgettable impression with their jaws. Your sleeping partner may tell you about the noise, or your co-workers may hear you gritting throughout the workday. 

Even if your grinding or clenching habit comes and goes, it’s still important to address the issue. 

Why Do People Grind Their Teeth? 

Muscles and tendons line your face and jaw, and they knit together to help you push your teeth together. Force helps you grind down tough foods. But ideally, you'll grind for just a moment or two until a bite is ready to swallow. People with a grinding habit push their teeth together for different reasons. 

You may push your teeth together due to: 

  • Stress. Preparing for a meeting could lead to hours of tooth grinding as you gather notes and imagine tough feedback. Remembering the meeting before bed could leave you gritting your teeth all night long. 
  • Anger. We all have inner voices that should stay silent when we're mad. Clenching our jaw and gritting our teeth sometimes seems like the best way to keep the words inside. 
  • Tooth placement. Missing or misaligned teeth can lead to grinding. Your jaw muscles work hard all day to keep your jaws aligned, and when they spasm at night, grinding begins. 

For some people, grinding is a lifelong habit. For others, it's an issue that comes and goes depending on outside factors like stress. You might be a tooth grinder before a big event or stressful work periods, for example, and feel the urge lessen leading up to a holiday. 

Can You Wear Aligners? 

If your teeth are misaligned, slipping on corrective trays could help you resolve the issue. But sometimes, persistent tooth grinders need to dig deeper before setting on a course of straightening their smile with aligners. 

If you grind your teeth at night, you may need a nightguard that keeps your molars apart. Sometimes, these devices are so thick that your jaws are held in a neutral position, so sore muscles can heal. If you skip a night, you may find your jaw aches in the morning. 

Aligners are thin, so they can't keep your teeth completely apart. But they still work to protect your teeth from the damage that grinding and clenching can cause. Your teeth will still touch through the aligner material, but they have a protective layer between them. 

In very extreme cases, severe tooth grinders can crack or ruin their aligners as they grit all night long. Again, this is rare. Your treatment team can assess whether this could be an issue for you. 

Most people have mild or moderate cases of night grinding, and they tend to clench their teeth mostly during the day. For them, a daytime aligner course of treatment could be ideal. They'll be reminded with a quick jolt each time they push their aligners together. And at night, they won't do as much damage. 

You'll submit moulds of your teeth before you start wearing aligners. Dental professionals can see the damage you've done in those moulds. If your teeth are flat or cracked, and you admit to grinding or clenching often, they can analyze your individual situation and advise on the best course of treatment. 

Other Ways to Stop Grinding 

For some people, aligners are the solution to healthy teeth. While they're wearing the devices, they're less likely to clench their molars together. But there are other approaches that can help you to stop grinding and clenching your teeth. 

Common tooth-grinding remedies include: 

  • Adjusting sleep positions. Some people only grind their teeth while lying flat on their backs. Switching to a side snooze could help the urge to ease. Try this for a few nights to see if it helps. 
  • Placing reminders. Put up notes around your home and workstation to remind you to relax your jaw and keep your teeth apart. Over time, you’ll start to internalize these cues. 
  • Asking for medications. Muscle relaxants and antidepressants could help people who don't get relief from tooth grinding with any other method. Your doctor may recommend you try these as a short-term solution while you attempt to address the problem via other means as well. 
  • Mindfulness. Yoga, tai chi, and meditation could help to ease your stress. That, in turn, could curb the urge to grind your teeth together. 

Each person’s individual treatment plan looks different. But in general, it can take time for the habit to fade. This is even more true if you are a lifelong grinder or clencher. Stick with your homework and remember that you're working to keep your smile as healthy as possible. 

References 

Teeth Grinding. (August 2020). Sleep Foundation. 

Do You Grind Your Teeth? (April 2005). Journal of the American Dental Association. 

Three Reasons People Grind Their Teeth. Sleep Foundation. 

Tooth Clenching or Grinding. (October 2015). American Academy of Oral Medicine. 

Stressed? It May Take a Toll On Your Teeth. Explore an Integrative Approach to Managing Bruxism. UCLA Center for East-West Medicine.