Night guards are often referred to as occlusal guards or bite guards. Some are very specialized and may be known as occlusal appliances or occlusal repositioning appliances. If you have ever woken yourself up from the noise of grinding your own teeth, it may be time to ask your dentist about night guards for teeth grinding. It is estimated that more than ten percent of American adults grind or clench their teeth while sleeping. Unfortunately, such repetitive actions can negatively impact the integrity of one’s teeth. If you suffer from TMD (temporomandibular joint disease) or nightly teeth grinding, consider making a consultation today with a dentist to discuss night guards and if they are right for you.
What are night guards?
A night guard is a special appliance worn inside the mouth while sleeping that fits directly over the biting surface of teeth. A well-made night guard is typically made from a transparent material that prohibits the top and bottom teeth from touching. It is not uncommon for night guards to be prescribed to patients that struggle with TMD issues or the repeated clenching and grinding of teeth while sleeping.
If a patient thinks they may be a candidate for wearing a night guard, it is important to make an appointment with a dentist before taking any action. Some night guards can be purchased over the counter, however, they are typically not as well-fitted as those created based on an impression of a patient’s teeth. Make a point to discuss which type of night guard would be best for you with your dentist.
Why wear a night guard?
In most cases a dentist will see evidence of the cracking or wearing down of teeth during a regular checkup at which point they may recommend a night guard. In addition to these common side effects of clenching and grinding the teeth while sleeping, night guards may protect against conditions such as:
- Damage of dental implants. Most people are not aware that wearing a night guard can be helpful for patients with dental implants. The reasoning is that the suspension system for teeth can vary for a natural tooth versus that of an implant placed in the bone. Natural teeth are supported by a periodontal ligament which acts as a shock absorber for activities such as biting down or chewing, whereas implants are rigid screws in the bone. Wearing a night guard while sleeping will provide protection.
- TMD: While not all dentists treat TMD, many will prescribe wearing a night guard to reduce its unwanted effects. TMD, or temporomandibular joint disease, is a condition diagnosed from symptoms such as jaw pain, face or neck pain, and loud popping noises from the jaw.
Benefits of Wearing a Night Guard
Wearing night guards for TMD or teeth grinding can be quite beneficial to patients with a history of either of these conditions. Some of the most common benefits of wearing a night guard while you sleep can include:
- Preventing tension headaches generated by pressure on the jaw from grinding and clenching teeth
- Minimizing the wearing down of tooth enamel which can cause cavities and fracturing
- Diminishing grinding related tooth pain
- Helping to protect the longevity of dental restorations by providing a cushion against nighttime biting, clenching, and grinding of teeth
- Alleviating the unpleasant effects of TMD or bruxism
How are night guards made?
It is important to note that not all mouth guards are created equal. Patients generally have several options to choose from, including some that are over the counter. However, a lab designed night guard may be the best option for patients wanting a customized fit designed purposely to address their specific oral health issues.
Most lab designed night guards start with a dental professional getting an impression of a patient’s teeth and bite registration (an impression of how the upper and lower teeth come together). This allows the lab to craft a night guard that molds to the patient’s exact tooth formation, which can increase the appliance’s effectiveness.
Benefits of choosing lab designed night guards for TMD or teeth grinding can include:
- Detailed production by a team of well-trained experts
- Specialized customization for a perfect fit
- Increased durability
- Better protection of the teeth without disruption to a patient’s normal bite
As you can see, while over the counter night guards are available, the precision and detail with which a lab-created night guard is professionally made is unparalleled and can make all the difference in quality, effectiveness, and durability.
Caring for Your Night Guard
The key to protecting the longevity of a well-made lab designed night guard is caring for it properly. Some basic steps patients should take to care for their night guard include:
- Rinsing. Even with regular brushing, the mouth is home to bacteria and germs. Rinse night guards with water and make sure to follow any specific care instructions given by your dentist.
- Brushing. Follow up rinsing the guard with a gentle scrub by a regular toothbrush. Some night guards are made to withstand the abrasiveness of toothpaste and some are not, so pay close attention to the instructions that come with your particular night guard.
- Drying. After brushing it, set the night guard on a clean and dry surface to thoroughly dry. Once the night guard is completely dry it should be stored in its case. Putting a moist night guard in an enclosed case can promote growth of bacteria, so drying the night guard is crucial before storing it. It is also worth noting that a night guard’s case will need to be cleaned periodically as well.
If you are sick or prefer a deeper clean, it is best to discuss those cleaning options with your dentist as a specialty lab designed night guard may come with recommended cleaning instructions.
For many, night guards can spell nighttime relief, so arrange for a consultation with your dentist today.
Dental Night Guard FAQs
Are night guards the same thing as mouth guards?
While both implements are technically guards, a night guard is designed to be worn primarily while sleeping. Some mouth guards can be sport guards, which are different.
Is a retainer a type of night guard?
Retainers are not considered night guards.
Why do people wear night guards?
Wearing night guards can protect against damage to the teeth and dental restorations from repetitive clenching and grinding.
Where can I get a mouth guard?
To ensure you are getting the right mouth guard for your specific circumstances, arrange a consultation with your dentist before making a purchase.
What are the benefits of getting a specially made night guard?
Lab designed night guards generally have a more customized fit, are stronger, and have more durability than other brands.