So a dentist or someone else said that you need a nightguard. Or you think you might be grind-ing or clenching your teeth while you sleep, and you’ve wondered if wearing a nightguard could help you.
Understandably, many people are skeptical about night guards. You might be thinking: do I really need a night guard?
And maybe you do, or maybe you don’t. As dental professionals, we’re here to tell you every-thing you need to know about nightguards to help you decide if one is right for you.
Of course, we do recommend you come in and see us and get an in-person opinion. But first, let’s talk about nightguards—what they are and what purpose they serve.
What are nightguards?
A nightguard is a device placed in the mouth on top of the teeth to help with grinding and clenching. Grinding implies the moving of the jaw back and forth, while clenching is biting down with pressure for an extended period of time. The guard acts as a protective layer between your top and bottom teeth.
These devices are also called occlusal guards, occlusal splints, or bite splints. Usually, the guard is made of plastic and is placed over some or all of the upper or lower teeth. In most cas-es, guards cover only your upper teeth. But sometimes, if you wear braces or have another den-tal appliance, a dentist can make a guard for your lower teeth, as well.
They re-establish your natural space and protect your teeth from grinding or clenching together, which can cause you to chip and crack your teeth and strain your jaw muscles.
Nightguards don’t stop you from clenching or grinding, but they serve as a cushion so that your teeth wear down the guard rather than your teeth. They also give your jaw a rest while you sleep. Plus, they can help you and your sleep partner sleep better, too.
Why do people wear nightguards?
People wear nightguards because they grind their teeth or clench their jaws at night. The act of grinding and clenching is known in the medical world as bruxism.
Bruxism often occurs when you’re sleeping or under stress. This is a very common behaviour, so don’t feel like you’re the only one with this problem.
On the other hand, you might not know if you grind your teeth. Many people don’t. Maybe the person you sleep with will inform you of your loud grinding because it wakes them up. Your den-tist is the only person who can confirm whether you have bruxism.
When you grind your teeth, your teeth lose their protective outer layer, the enamel. And when your enamel is gone, it cannot be replaced, which can lead to a lot of oral damage, like cavities.
When wearing a nightguard, you’ll be able to breathe easily and speak as normal.
They should keep your teeth in place and should feel comfortable. While you technically could wear your nightguard while eating and drinking, it’s best not to if you want to keep it clean. And it’s meant to be worn at night while you sleep.
Is wearing a nightguard the only option?
Nightguards are one of the most common treatments for bruxism, but they aren’t the only op-tion.
Here are some things you can do to prevent or lessen your teeth grinding or clenching:
- Limit your drinking of caffeine and alcohol.
- Stop smoking, especially right before sleeping.
- Use relaxation techniques before you go to bed, such as listening to gentle music, medi-tating, or doing yoga.
Do nightguards hurt?
When you first get your nightguard, it will take some getting used to. You’ll probably need to wear it for about a week until it begins to feel normal. Some people even take months to get used to their new appliance, but this is normal.
Before sleeping in one, you may want to try wearing it for a few hours to get used to the feel.
You may have heard people complain that their mouth guard causes them pain. In most cases, they don’t have a custom-fitted one or the dentist did not fit them properly.
Why don’t many people want to wear nightguards?
There are many reasons why people are hesitant to wear a nightguard. Maybe someone doesn’t think his or her situation is serious.
Say your dentist tells you that you need a nightguard to protect the teeth. You check out your teeth, but you feel like the wear and tear is natural. So you ask yourself: Why should I waste money when everything is fine?
Well, ask yourself this: Do you really know what natural wear and tear looks like? Don’t you think a dentist, who went through years of training, has a better idea than you?
And another thing, you might think the cost of getting a nightguard made by your dentist is expensive. But when you consider the damage you could be doing to your teeth, the cost is minimal. Other dental procedures caused by wearing down your teeth, such as crowns, veneers, bridges, implants, extractions, and root canals will be much more expensive and painful.
You might even lose some of your teeth! Not to mention, most insurances cover the cost be-cause the appliances are really important to many people.
Now if you have jaw pain or headaches in the morning, or if your teeth clearly show some wear, you might be convinced. But maybe you have a high pain tolerance and can’t really tell you’re in pain. A dentist can look for the signs and ask the right questions to help you figure out if you grind your teeth or clench your jaws at night.
How will a nightguard help you?
Regularly wearing a nightguard can help you:
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- Get rid of morning headaches.
- Stop your jaw aches.
- Stop yourself from damaging your teeth, dentures, restorations, crowns, and jaw, and from causing dental problems.
Will a nightguard prevent or help with TMJ?
Yes, a properly fitted nightguard can help prevent and lessen the symptoms of TMJ (temporo-mandibular joint disorder). This means that your jaw tension, pain, headaches, and other symptoms can improve. However, a poorly fabricated nightguard can make this serious problem even worse.
So as you think about cost, doesn’t it make sense to get the help of an experienced professional?
At our office, our dentists have studied treatments for TMJ disease, so they are more than qualified to help you with teeth grinding or clenching.
Some other important facts to consider:
Bruxism is a leading cause of root canals — an expensive procedure.
The rate of wear of enamel is eight micrometers per year in normal times.
It is possible for teeth grinders to experience two millimeters of enamel erosion by their mid-twenties.
Jaw clenching can be as much as 40 minutes of massive force per hour while sleeping. And the sum of all eating clenches in a day is little more than 20 minutes.
Why getting a custom-fit nightguard is important
Yes, you can find cheaper options than the ones you’ll find at a dentist office. However, there are reasons custom-fit nightguards are better for most people and why they are worth the extra money.
For one, you want to make sure your jaw is properly aligned with the right guard, or you can create new problems for your mouth.
Two, a properly fitted mouthguard won’t fall out or fit poorly. It also won’t push on your gums or feel uncomfortable, and it will last much longer — for up to 10 years.
When you come to our office and you have bruxism, we will create a mold of your teeth and give you a guard created just for your mouth. You’ll get the most comfort and protection possible.
Square 1 Dental offers gentle dentistry for a comfortable, safe experience
So if you don’t want worn down, cracked teeth that may turn yellow or fall out (or need to be extracted), getting a nightguard is the way to go.
If you’re concerned your dental health, Square 1 Dental Center can help. We provide general family dentistry as well as cosmetic enhancements and restorative procedures. Contact us today at 905-270-7206 and make an appointment.
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