What Are Night Guards?
Dental night guards are specially made plastic shells worn by a patient his or her upper teeth at night time. They are in some ways similar to removable dentures or sportsman’s teeth guards worn by players during contact sports like soccer and rugby.
Why Night Guards?
Dentists prescribe night guards to their patients for various reasons:
- Bruxism – Night guards are recommended for individuals who tend to grind their teeth during the day or at night time. They are basically preventive in nature and prevent the natural teeth and jaw joints from damage due to the habit of excessive tooth grinding, and habit known as bruxism.
- Teeth Clenching –Another use of Nightguards in patients who tend to clench their teeth tightly in various situations such as fear, anger or stress. Clenching leads to a direct pressure on the teeth as well as the jaw joints. A night guard is prescribed to such patients to reduce the pressure on the teeth and the temporomandibular joint.
- Loud Snoring and Sleep Apnea – are you fed up with your partner’s snoring sounds during sleep? Night guards can help with this problem! The Nightguards adjust the position of the tongue and lower in such a way that air can pass through freely and airway remains open, thereby reducing the snoring sound.
Why Should People Grind and Clench Their Teeth Anyway?
Teeth-grinding and clenching is not always a result of extreme anger as generally understood. It happens most often during sleep but can also take place during the day. It is most likely to happen in moments of mental stress due to any reason. Clenching may also be caused by other reasons than nervous stress. One common reason is a nasal obstruction. Another form of teeth grinding occurs involuntarily during sleep.
Why Guards? Why Not Treat the Actual Cause?
That is a very logical question. Indeed, the preferred treatment is to eliminate or mitigate the cause, The reason is that quite often, treatment of the underlying causes is either impossible or takes a long time. Many people are inherently unable to stand up to stress, and they grind their teeth unconsciously. Some people tend to grind or clench their teeth at night. This could be due to any number of irritation factor. And grinding at night is due to breathing difficulty due to nasal obstruction during sleep. Identifying, the cause and treating it completely takes a long time. Night guards are advised as an interim preventive measure to prevent damage to the teeth while the root-cause is being treated.
What Damage Will Night Guards Prevent?
If you are a bruxist, that is, you are in the habit of clenching or grinding your teeth, you are likely to suffer from the following problems. Teeth guards will help avoid these:
- Aches- If you are a bruxist, you are very likely to suffer from frequent aches in the 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 mating surfaces of your teeth smooth. That will eliminate the natural pits and fissures in the chewing surfaces of your teeth. These pits and fissures help better crushing of the food by your molars, and hence, bruxism will ultimately reduce your chewing efficiency.
- Changed Bite- That is a very unpleasant prospect. Tooth wear due to grinding and clenching will also gradually reduce the length of your molars. That will result in a ‘close’ bite. A close bite can change the very shape of your face and adversely affect your smile.
- Tooth Sensitivity– How would you fell about your teeth becoming sensitive to hot and cold. worn out tooth surfaces may cause your teeth to become sensitive to the feeling of hot and cold foods. This limits the variety of food you can consume and detracts from the quality of life.
- Damage to Veneers– If you are wearing veneers over your teeth grinding and clenching can bring excessive mechanical forces to bear on your veneers. The veneers may get damaged in turn.
- Tooth damage– This extreme damage can also not be ruled out. Excessive pressure on your teeth due to involuntary grinding or clenching can cause them to crack, chip, or even break. This is particularly possible when the teeth have already worn out over the years.
Types of Nightguards
You can get one of two main types of night guards. You can buy off-the-shelf night guards or you can have them custom-made for your teeth. Both techniques have merits and demerits.
- Off-the-shelf Night Guards- You can choose one of those readily available in most pharmacies. These are meant to fit everyone, and hence, will rarely offer a perfect fit. They are to be boiled in water until they soften, and then the patient is to bite on them and shape them to fit as well as possible. To allow this adjustment, these are made rather thin, and hence not very robust. Since these have been mass-produced, they are relatively inexpensive. However, they cannot be expected to be as comfortable as custom-made ones and are not very durable.
- Custom-made Night Guards- These are made specifically for your teeth by your dentist. The dentist takes impressions of your teeth and sends them to the lab for the manufacture of the guards. The lab manufactures the guards according to these impressions and passes them to the dentist. These custom-made guards fit you’re perfect and are comfortable to wear. Since they will not need any adjustments like the off-the shelf-ones, custom-made guards can be made of thicker plastic. This ensures a longer life for them which could be about ten years on average. A disadvantage, however, is that they are expensive. Also, manufacture can take some time.
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 and physician by studying your medical history, direct discussion with you, and possibly with the help of laboratory tests. 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 a dentist immediately. After all, a healthy smile is a beautiful smile!
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