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What Are Night Guards?
Dental nightguards are specially made plastic appliances intended to be worn during sleep and help prevent teeth from wearing down due to grinding. They are similar to mouth guards because they provide protection to both upper and lower teeth from trauma or nighttime grinding.
Why Night Guards?
Dentists prescribe night guards to their patients for various reasons:
- Bruxism –nightguards are recommended for individuals who grind their teeth during the day or at night. They are preventative in nature and protect the natural teeth and jaw joints from damage or trauma due to the habit of excessive tooth grinding or bruxism.
- Teeth Clenching – another use of nightguards is for people who clench their teeth tightly especially in stressful or frustrating situations. Clenching leads to direct pressure and stress on the teeth as well as their jaw joints. A night guard is prescribed to patients with these habits to reduce the pressure and trauma to the teeth and the jaw joints.
- Loud Snoring and Sleep Apnea – Are you fed up with your partner’s snoring sounds during sleep? Night guards can help with this problem! Nightguards adjust the position of the tongue and lower it in such a way that allow air to pass through freely. Thus, with the airway always open, snoring is reduced.
Why Should People Grind and Clench Their Teeth Anyway?
Teeth grinding and clenching is not always a result of extreme anger as one might assume. It happens most often during the sleep but can also take place during the day. It is most likely to occur in stressful situations but can also be caused by other factors such as habits, nasal obstruction, or it can also occur involuntarily during sleep.
Why Guards? Why Not Treat the Actual Cause?
That is a very logical question. The preferred treatment is to eliminate and address the cause or the foundation of the issue, but sometimes treating the underlying causes can either be too complex or can be too expensive. Many people believe that teeth wear is a natural part of aging but what they don’t realize is that teeth wear is due to chronic stress and trauma being placed on the teeth from clinching and/or grinding. If teeth are not properly aligned then they can be hitting incorrectly, which causes unnecessary stresses on the teeth and its underlying bone. This can lead to severe teeth wear which can cause teeth to crack, need root canals, or extractions from vertical root fractures. Though nightguards do not treat the underlying causes of the teeth grinding or clinching, it is a great interim preventative method to prevent further damage to the teeth.
What Damage Will Night Guards Prevent?
If you are a bruxir, that is, if you have the habit of clenching or grinding your teeth, you are likely to suffer from the following problems. Night guards will help avoid these issues:
- Aches- If you are a bruxir, you are very likely to suffer from frequent aches in head, neck or the jaws. This occurs due to excessive tension in the jaw muscles while clenching or grinding teeth.
- Smoothened Tooth surfaces– teeth grinding will gradually wear the biting surfaces of your teeth smooth, which obliterates the natural anatomy of your teeth. Chewing and mastication of food is less efficient when the natural pits and fissures of your teeth are worn down.
- Changed Bite- Teeth wear due to grinding and clenching will also gradually reduce the crown height of your teeth, which then will result in a “collapsed bite.” A collapsed bite can change the shape of your face and adversely affect your smile. People with a collapsed bite experience more problems with their teeth such as sensitivity, cracking and periodontal issues.
- Tooth Sensitivity– Worn out teeth may cause your teeth to become sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. This limits the variety of food you can consume and reduces your quality of life.
- Damage to Veneers– Grinding and clenching can bring excessive stress on your veneers or any other prosthesis which can then break or damage them. Longevity therefore is significantly reduced.
- Tooth damage– Excessive pressure and stress on your teeth due to involuntary grinding or clenching can cause them to crack, chip or even break all the way down to the roots. Cracked tooth syndrome is common for chronic grinders.
Types of Nightguards
You can get one of two types of night guards. You can purchase them from other the counter or have them custom-made using dental impressions or molds made in the dental office.
- Over-the-Counter Night Guards- These are night guards that are readily available in most pharmacies or groceries. These are usually made to be a “fit-all” and therefore will rarely have a perfect, accurate fit for each person. These types of nightguards are soaked under warm water until they soften before the patient molds it to fit on their upper teeth. Although these are the least expensive, they are usually very thin and therefore not very strong or robust therefore not recommended.
- Custom-made Night Guards- Custom made night guards are made specifically for your teeth because an impression or a mold of your upper and lower teeth are taken by your dentist, which is then sent to the dental laboratory to be fabricated. These custom-made guards have the most accurate fit and therefore are the most comfortable to wear. They are also the thickest and most rigid because they are made of hard acrylic material from the laboratory. This rigid nature ensures durability and longevity and most effective protection against bruxism.
Please remember that using night guards is not a treatment for the underlying cause of bruxism. They will simply act to reduce the effect of bruxism on your teeth and your smile. The actual cause of bruxism must be investigated by your dentist by studying your medical and dental history. Therefore, if you or any of your loved ones have a habit of teeth grinding or clenching, you should not take this matter lightly and take them to the dentist immediately. After all, a healthy smile is a beautiful smile!
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