When choosing a night-guard to prevent further premature wear on your teeth due to bruxism and teeth grinding, it’s important to remember that the device will be in your mouth whilst you are asleep and whilst you are trying to get to sleep. As such, comfort should be a consideration and it’s important that the night-guard fits well. Those with sensitive gums especially need to bear this in mind when choosing a night guard. Also, those with severe bruxism need to consider the durability of the nightguard.
To help we’ve prepared this interactive guide to choosing a night-guards. Just answer the following questions to find the right night-guard for you:
What is a night guard?
A night guard is a plastic dental appliance that fits over the top teeth. When grinding or clenching, much of the force will be transferred to the night guard instead of to the teeth. Often, deep grooves will eventually form in the night guard from the force of the grinding. The night guard prevents this same force from causing damage to the teeth. Without a night guard, enamel can be worn down excessively, leading to tooth sensitivity. Teeth may also be chipped or cracked, requiring extensive restorative dental treatments to repair them.
Night guards versus athletic guards
It is important not to settle for a simple athletic guard in place of a night guard, as these are not designed for the same purpose. An athletic guard may shift while you’re sleeping; a night guard will not. In fact, some night guards will encourage you to keep your jaw relaxed while you sleep; these are referred to as anterior deprogrammers or NTI devices. Athletic guards cannot perform this function, and should not be substituted for your night guard.
Who should wear a night mouth guard?
In most cases, you will be asked to wear a night guard if you suffer from nighttime teeth grinding. This allows your teeth to be protected from the unusual clenching force of your jaw that occurs while you are unaware. It also helps to prevent you from developing TMJ/TMD. In some patients, wearing a nighttime mouth guard over the teeth can help to relieve discomfort from chronic tension headaches, facial/jaw pain, and tooth soreness.
What Is Bruxism?
Bruxism is the medical term for grinding or clenching your teeth and jaws. Grinding refers to moving the jaw back and forth. Clenching refers to biting down with excessive force for long periods of time. Bruxism is a common condition and normally occurs during sleep or times of stress. Many people do not even know that they grind their teeth in their sleep until they are told by their sleep partner or dentist.
Over time, grinding teeth in sleep causes extensive damage to the structure and enamel of the teeth, which can lead to decay and increased sensitivity. It can also cause headaches, disrupt your sleep, and cause pain in the jaw, face, and neck.
Factors that may increase your chances of developing bruxism include:
- Age: Bruxism is most common in young children.
- Personality Type: Individuals who are naturally competitive, aggressive, or hyperactive are more likely to experience bruxism.
- Intense Emotions: Many people unconsciously grind their teeth when under intense stress or when they feel angry or frustrated.
- Certain Medications and Substances: Tobacco use, drinking caffeine or alcohol, and certain psychiatric medications can increase your risk of bruxism.
- Other Health Conditions: Bruxism is often associated with other conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, sleep apnea, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
What Is Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome?
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome refers to problems affecting the function of the muscles of the jaw or the temporomandibular joint that connects the jaw to the skull. Injuries to the jaw and bruxism are common causes of temporomandibular joint syndrome. Symptoms include:
- Pain or tenderness in the face, jaw, neck, shoulders, or around the ear
- Difficulty chewing or opening the mouth wide
- A popping or clicking sound when you open or close your mouth
- A jaw that seems to get stuck or locked in a position
- Swelling on the side of the face
- A sudden uncomfortable bite
Although a night guard is not the only treatment for bruxism or temporomandibular joint pain, it is an affordable, convenient, and non-invasive treatment option. A properly fitted night guard shifts the jaw and teeth into proper alignment, which can alleviate jaw tension, headaches, pain, and other symptoms of temporomandibular joint syndrome.
Reestablishing an open airway at night will not only improve the patient’s general health and quality of life, but often will also stop or greatly reduce the grinding and clenching as well. Once the body no longer needs to push the jaw forward in order to breathe, then there will be no need for the body to activate a grinding response. In many cases, grinding will stop and a night guard will no longer be necessary once the sleep apnea has been addressed.
In addition, many sleep apnea oral devices also address the problem of grinding. For example, mandibular advancement devices fit over the teeth to hold the lower jaw in a forward position. This also allows them to protect the teeth from the forces of grinding (if grinding still occurs).
Does this mean that a night guard is never the right treatment?
Night guards can protect the teeth from significant damage, and may be a recommended treatment for bruxism. However, those who grind or clench the teeth at night should be screened for sleep apnea before being fitted for a night guard. Some experts actually recommend a sleep study for every bruxism patient, while others believe that a screening test is sufficient (though it should be followed by a sleep study if the screening test shows possible sleep apnea). If the patient turns out to have sleep apnea, then treatment of this disorder should take priority. If the patient doesn’t have sleep apnea, then a night guard will most likely be the best treatment for the patient’s bruxism.
The problem with using a night guard is that it only addresses the symptoms – the damage to the teeth that bruxism can cause. However, a night guard doesn’t get to the root cause of grinding the teeth. A person wearing a night guard will usually continue to grind and clench the teeth.
There are many potential causes of teeth grinding. Very commonly, the cause is stress, and in many cases, a specific cause is never found. However, there are also many cases in which grinding the teeth at night is actually a symptom of a life-threatening illness – sleep apnea. Prescribing a night guard to a person with sleep apnea will stop the teeth from becoming damaged, but will not address the much more serious issue of keeping the person breathing at night.
What Is the Process for Getting a Custom Night Guard?
The process for getting a teeth protector for sleeping is simple and painless. The dentist takes an impression of your teeth. The impression is used to create the mold that the lab will use to fabricate your night guard out of durable plastic. Once finished, the dentist will check the guard to ensure that it fits properly. Then all you have to do is wear the guard as you sleep. It may feel a little odd at first, but most of patients get used to wearing their night guard quite quickly. The guard will not interfere with your breathing, and you will still be able to speak normally. Most people who complain about their mouth guard being uncomfortable are either wearing an over-the-counter device or one that was not fitted properly.
Adjusting to your night guard can take time
It’s not uncommon for it to take a few weeks (or even a month or more) for folks to adjust to wearing a night guard at night. If it feels uncomfortable or distracting in the beginning, know that this is normal and you’re likely to adjust to it over time. If you’ve been using your night guard for several weeks and you still feel that it’s interfering with your ability to get a good night’s sleep, then it’s time to talk to your dentist about different strategies or other treatment options.
One trick that may help you adjust to wearing your night guard more quickly is to practice putting it in for short periods of time during the day. Wearing the night guard for short intervals as you go about your daily routine can help you ease into using it for entire nights at a time.
Caring for your mouth guard
If your night guard keeps falling out it may be time for a new one. Once you have received your new device, there are a number of things you can do to help your night guard last as long as possible:
- Wear your guard only after you’ve brushed and flossed your teeth
- Try to avoid chewing on your mouth guard, as this can cause it’s shape to become distorted
- Wash your night guard with cool water and soap after each use
- Soak your mouth guard in a mouthwash before you store it for the day
- Store your mouth guard in a ventilated plastic container specifically designed for this purpose
- Do not bend your night guard, and never leave it in a hot vehicle or direct sunlight
- Never try to adjust the fit of your night guard yourself
bring your night guard to your dental appointments
Bringing your night guard to your regular dental appointments provides your dentist with an opportunity to make sure your night guard is still in working order. They’ll inspect it for signs of wear and tear and can double-check that the night guard is continuing to fit well in your mouth.
While it might feel uncomfortable at first to sleep with a night guard, it’s important to give it a chance. Wearing a night guard can protect your oral health for years to come, so it’s well worth learning how to use one properly and committing to its regular use.
How Much Does a Bruxism Mouth Guard Cost?
The cost of a custom night guard will vary based on the materials used and the exact specifications of the appliance. In most cases, the cost of a teeth protector for sleeping is far less than veneers, crowns, root canals, or other treatments used to correct the damage caused by the grinding and clenching. If your dentist decides that a hard night guard is the right bruxism or TMJ syndrome treatment for you, dentist will provide you with an estimate of your cost.
If you are experiencing tooth damage, jaw pain, or other symptoms of bruxism, call today to schedule a consultation with one of experienced dentists. If your dentist determines that your issues are caused by teeth grinding or clenching, they will help you find the right night guard or bruxism treatment for you.