A night guard, also known as a dental guard, is prescribed to patients to help treat bruxism, aka teeth grinding. A night guard may also be referred to as an occlusal guard, occlusal splint, or bite splint. If you grind your teeth at night, it literally means you clench your jaw and move it in a way so that the upper and lower teeth rub together. This can make some pretty scary sounds, perhaps you’ve heard your partner complain about it before. If your teeth could talk, they’d be complaining too. After all, grinding leads to premature breakdown of teeth and can result in tooth loss if left untreated.
Some common signs of teeth grinding include:
- Facial pain
- Jaw joint and surrounding muscles feel tender or stiff; it might be painful to open your mouth all the way
- Sleep disruptions (for you and/or your partner)
- Increased sensitivity of teeth
- Jaw locks when you open your mouth
- Pain or tenderness when chewing and eating
Only a dentist can determine if you have bruxism, as well as the best solution to treat it and prevent future deterioration of teeth.
How Does a Night Guard Help?
Night guards for teeth grinding are typically made from a plastic material that is custom-made to fit over some or all of your teeth. Many night guards only cover the upper teeth, but in some cases, such as if you wear braces, your dentist may create a guard for your bottom teeth as well.
Dental night guards do not stop you from grinding your teeth. Instead, as their name suggests, night guards help guard your teeth against damages caused by grinding or clenching your jaw by reestablishing natural space between your upper and lower teeth and providing a barrier of defense. As a result, it can reduce the risk of cracking or chipping a tooth, as well as straining your jaw muscles. Instead of breaking down your teeth, you break down the guard—which is much easier to replace than your teeth!
Is a Dental Night Guard Uncomfortable?
Your night guard for teeth grinding should fit comfortably in your mouth, allowing you to speak normally and breathe without issue. It’s designed to be worn only when you are sleeping. Although, you could wear your night guard while eating or drinking, but we don’t recommend it since that’s going to break down your night guard faster and make it dirty.
It takes some time to get used to wearing a night guard for the first few nights or so, but it shouldn’t be painful. After about a week, it should start to feel more normal to wear it. For some people it takes a little longer to get comfortable in their night guard. You may want to try wearing it for a few hours at first and ease into wearing the guard all night.
If your night guard is causing you pain or ongoing discomfort, talk to your dentist. Typically, this relates to a night guard that wasn’t custom made for your mouth or was improperly molded to fit your specific bite.
Benefits of Wearing a Night Guard for Teeth Grinding
- Decrease wear and tear on your natural teeth
- Help stop damages to dentures, crowns, and other restoration work
- Protect sensitive enamel
- Reduce the risk of chipped teeth and tooth loss
- Decrease jaw pain, headaches, and other common symptoms of teeth grinding
- Get a better sleep each night
- Prevent damages to your teeth that could lead to the need for costly repair methods such as crowns, veneers, implants, bridges, extractions, and so forth. It’s less painful and more cost effective to invest in a night guard.
What About Over the Counter Dental Guards?
There are dental guards available for sale that do not require a trip to the dentist, but beware these guards are not custom made like a guard created by your dentist. As a result, it’s likely to be uncomfortable and potentially even painful. Even worse, wearing an improperly fitting dental guard could cause worsening of certain conditions such as Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). It’s so important to talk with a dentist before deciding if you should wear a dental night guard or not.
Your dentist is the only person who can officially diagnose bruxism and create the appropriate dental guard to fit your mouth. A dentist can also detect existing damages resulting from teeth grinding and help address these issues. It might seem easy to ignore teeth grinding, but over time it’s sure to lead to dental issues that are costly and painful to fix. Proactive dental care is more affordable and a wise investment in your smile.
Ready to stop damaging your teeth every night with teeth grinding?