Night Guards to Protect Teeth and Gums
By: Dr. Lee Schild, General Dentist
The daily stresses of life take a great toll on our bodies. Unfortunately, I see many patients who present with damage to their teeth, including chips, cracks, and general wearing down due to teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Even if you don’t think you’re clenching and/or grinding your teeth during the day, it could indeed be happening at night.
Enter: night guards. These will prevent tooth damage and protect your investment for years to come, lessening your chance of expensive dental treatment and procedures needed.
What is a Night Guard?
Night guards are retainer-like soft or hard plastic pieces that cover either the top or bottom set of teeth. Night guards are popular treatments for sleep teeth grinding and clenching (also known as sleep bruxism). They cushion your teeth from the force of clenching and grinding and prevent the teeth from grinding together, helping to prevent headaches, damaged teeth, and inflamed gums.
Night guards can also be called mouth guards, occlusal guards, dental guards, bite splints, or nocturnal bite plates.
Signs of Teeth Grinding and Clenching
There are a few signs and symptoms to keep an eye out for if you suspect you grind or clench your teeth at night.
Here are a few:
- A headache upon waking up
- Sore or tight jaw or facial muscles
- Chipped teeth
- A feeling of “loose” teeth
- Discomfort when chewing
All Dental Associates dentists and hygienists are trained to look for signs of teeth grinding (bruxism) at your routine appointments. If they suspect any damage from nightly grinding and clenching, they will likely recommend a mouth guard or night guard to wear while sleeping.
Types of Night Guards
There are two main types of night guards. The more common but less effective option is to purchase a “boil and bite” guard from an online retailer or drug store. With this option, you’ll place the mouth guard in hot water for some time to soften it up, then place it in your mouth and bite down to create an impression of your teeth. These guards are typically thick and bulky, often forcing the jaw into an uncomfortable position. Patient compliance is very low with most patients not using these successfully.
The second and more effective option is to have your dentist create a custom night guard at our clinic. Customized guards tend to be of higher quality than drug store guards and are custom-made to your teeth. With this option, your dentist will take an impression of your teeth and send the mold to a dental laboratory where they will create a custom-fitted night guard just for you. Before sending you home with your new night guard, your dentist will ensure the fit and make any necessary adjustments. Overall, a custom night guard will fit you better and provide optimal protection throughout the night They are also rated very high in effectiveness by patients.
Contact your local Dental Associates and request an appointment to have your mouth examined and ensure you’re on the right path to excellent oral health!