Many people who have a habit to grind, gnash or clench their teeth in sleep or awake, often wake up with a sore jaw, a mild headache or tooth pain. Dentists advise these people to use a night guard. A night guard is a device which is made up of acrylic material. It is placed in the mouth, over the teeth and prevents teeth grinding.
Tooth grinding also known as bruxism affects about 10 to 15 percent of the adult population. (1) Dentists recommend night guards to patients so that it avoids further wearing of the tooth enamel while sleeping.
People are usually skeptical and ask if there are other options to prevent tooth grinding as wearing a mouth guard can be painful at first.
A perfectly fitting night guard can also help prevent and lessen the symptoms of a temporomandibular joint disorder. This means that your jaw tension, pain, headaches, and other symptoms can improve just by wearing a night guard.
What is a night guard?
A night guard also called a splint or occlusal guard is a device made of rigid acrylic material placed in the mouth over the teeth to keep your teeth safe from bruxism or teeth grinding.
The mouth guards help to raise the bite and put the jaw in a position that helps relieve the patient from any discomfort and pain.
Generally, guards are mostly made for upper teeth. Night guards don’t stop you from clenching or grinding of tooth, but it acts as a protective barrier between the upper and lower jaw and prevents any wear of teeth to happen.
This will help you to prevent chipping and cracking your teeth and straining of your jaw muscles. (2)
Who needs a night guard?
Some people have a habit of clenching and grinding of their teeth against each other are advised to wear a night guard. This mouth guard can also sometimes help in the treatment of temporomandibular disorders.
A dental night guard is very similar to a mouth guard worn by sportsmen. Mouth guards are important sports equipment for protecting anyone from a blow or jaw injury.
Types of night guard
When you start to search for a night guard for your tooth grinding condition, you might get confused which type of mouth guard will be best for you.
There are mainly three types of night guard and they are the acrylic type, soft type, and dual laminate type.
The soft night guard is generally recommended for mild cases of teeth grinding during sleep or bruxism. The soft night guard is also comfortable for people who suffer from teeth clenching rather than teeth grinding.
The soft material reduces the clenching force by cushioning.
Dual laminate type
This form of night guard is used in more severe cases of teeth grinding and dual laminated night guard is a long lasting appliance.
A dual laminate night guard is soft on the inner side and hard on the outside, providing more protection and more durability than soft night guard.
Acrylic night guard, also known as the hard night guard, is made from acrylic, a hard plastic making it more durable. It is used in the treatment of heavy to severe tooth grinding.
How can a night guard help you?
To prevent any further damage to the teeth due clenching or grinding of teeth regular wearing of a night mouth guard is very necessary and can help you –
- Get rid of morning headaches.
- Keep your jaw inaccurate position and prevent jaw aches.
- Get a comfortable night’s sleep.
- Keep yourself from damaging your teeth, dentures, restorations, crowns, and jaw, and from causing serious dental problems.
- Preventing tooth pain due to clenching of teeth during sleep.
- Stop any damage to TMJ.
What will happen if you don’t wear a night mouth guard?
While grinding of teeth, your upper and lower teeth move back and forth with great force against each other causing your teeth to erode and get flattened.
If this grinding persists for a long time, it causes temperature sensitivity and pain. This is because the wear of teeth gets deeper and reach to the nerve. It causes cracks in the teeth, receding gums and eventually loss of teeth.
To fix these, patients will need crowns, bridges, veneers, implants, extractions, or root canals. If grinding is left untreated, then it can also cause migraine headaches and pain in the shoulders, neck, back, and ears.
Most of the people think that their condition is not very serious and it’s not necessary for them to invest their money in something expensive like a night guard. But avoiding night guard can lead to severe consequences.
Other treatments for teeth grinding
Apart from wearing a night guard, one can also ensure several steps to protect the grinding of their teeth. Sometimes a night mouth guard is uncomfortable, and there are other possible treatments listed below that you can consider –
If your teeth are not correctly alignment (malocclusion), this could lead to bruxism. To correct this condition, various orthodontic treatments can be considered such as braces.
Very often it is observed that the main cause leading to bruxism is anxiety. So, your dentist might advise you to practice relaxation at home, like meditation, or professional counseling, to make you stress-free and stop clenching your teeth.
Change of diet and medication
You should avoid stimulants such as caffeine to reduce teeth grinding. Certain medications, such as antidepressants, can also contribute to the condition. Try to avoid these medications and ask your doctor to suggest some alternatives.
Essential care tips for a night guard
Night mouth guards are very effective for preventing the grinding of teeth which can be very damaging for the teeth health.
These mouth guards require proper care and attention or else you may end up making your teeth health even worse. Here are some tips listed for proper care of a night mouth guard –
- Brush your night guard before you put it inside your mouth and also in the morning when you wake up.
- Use a protective case for storing your mouth guard and keep it clean.
- Take care of your teeth, brush, and floss before you put a mouth guard in your mouth.
- Get your night mouth guard checked and cleaned every time you visit your dentist along with your teeth and gums. (3)
Over to you
If you are suffering from headaches or jaw pain in the morning, do not delay and fix an appointment with your dentist and get a night mouth guard. This is a device typically worn while sleeping. It is available at most of the drug stores without a prescription.
For a better-fitting mouth guard, dentists usually recommend a custom-made night guard. Unlike other types of mouth guards, custom-made mouthguards are professionally fitted and crafted by your dentist and therefore compensate for your specific dental needs.
Make sure that your mouth guard lasts for a long time and does not cause any damage to your gums and teeth over time. Regular cleaning of night mouth guard is necessary along with good oral hygiene.