Sometimes, we take our teeth for granted. Our smile is one of our greatest assets, but we often don’t care for our teeth as diligently as we should. In fact, we often end up needing dental work due to decaying or weakened teeth. It’s not just poor brushing and flossing that can cause problems, however. Many people grind their teeth, for example, especially at night. Our jaw exerts tremendous force on the teeth, which can cause damage to them over time.
What is a Night Guard?
A night guard is a device that is fitted over the teeth to help protect them from the forces of clenching and grinding during sleep. Also known as occlusal splints, bite guards, and muscle relaxation appliances, these simple devices can protect the enamel and the teeth from becoming worn away, cracked, and broken over time. Bruxism (grinding the teeth) can also cause sensitivity, pain, yellowing, and even receding gums. During the day, it’s possible to monitor tooth grinding, but at night while you’re asleep, you can’t always prevent yourself from clenching and grinding. A night guard can prevent some of the potential damage caused by nighttime grinding. Night guards can also help alleviate TMD, a dysfunction of the TMJ.
Why Use a Night Guard?
Your natural teeth can last a lifetime if you care for them properly. Aside from proper brushing and flossing and regular dental visits, caring for your smile includes ensuring that you do not wear down your teeth or allow them to become loose from clenching and grinding. Since you’re most often asleep when grinding happens, most people are not even aware of it. A night guard is the first line of defense against damage to the teeth.
Night guards can also help reduce or eliminate morning headaches and sore jaws, and they can help reduce tooth sensitivity from bruxism. They can help relax your jaw muscles, which can reduce spasms if you have them. Most importantly, the night guard takes the brunt of the wear and tear caused by grinding, rather than your teeth. Dental work can be very expensive and uncomfortable, and while there are good options for repair and replacement, preventing damage to your natural teeth is the best way to ensure a healthy smile for years to come. A night guard can play a simple but crucial role in this effort.
Could a Night Guard Help You?
If you wake up in the morning with a headache, an aching jaw, and sensitive teeth, then you probably have trouble with clenching and grinding. Bruxism and TMJ are two conditions that often warrant the use of a night guard. However, it’s important to get an expert’s opinion before you decide whether or not to use a night guard. You may not know whether you grind your teeth or not, since it happens overnight, but your dentist will be able to see any damage to the enamel or other issues caused by grinding. It’s a very common problem, and many people can benefit from using a night guard. They’re simple to use and most people have no problem sleeping with one on after an adjustment period.\
Your Night Guard
If you are a good candidate for a night guard, your next step is to discuss your options with your dentist. Most night guards are fitted for the upper teeth since this tends to provide the most benefit to patients. However, there are some special circumstances that can make a lower guard make more sense. Your guard will be fitted and molded to your teeth for your comfort and to prevent changes in your bite. It is important to use a high-quality night guard, as a low-quality substitute will not protect the teeth well. Your dentist will be able to advise you and help you make the right decision for your situation.
Are night guards one size fits all?
No. Night guards can be uncomfortable and ineffective unless they are fitted and custom-molded to the teeth. Bulky over-the-counter night guards and boil guards are not typically recommended as they do not offer the same benefits as a high-quality night guard and some cheaper versions may actually cause more harm than good.
How long will my night guard last?
The longevity of your night guard will depend on several factors, including the material and thickness of the guard (some are soft and some are rigid, depending on the extent of the bruxism), your symptoms and severity of clenching and grinding, and the quality of the guard. Some guards last only months, while others can last for years. No night guard will last forever, unfortunately, and will eventually need to be replaced. However, this is far preferable to replacing your teeth!
Should children use night guards?
Many children, like adults, grind their teeth. Some outgrow the habit before they become teenagers, while others do not. Night guards are not often prescribed for children, but your dentist may recommend one depending on the situation. It is also helpful to reduce stress and anxiety as much as possible to help prevent children from grinding and clenching at night.
If I have dental implants, could I benefit from a night guard?
Yes! Once you’ve invested in expensive dental work like implants, you’ll want to protect both your investment and your smile. Using a night guard can help prevent damage to dental work like dental implants, fillings, and crowns.
Are there any risks to using a night guard?
Low-quality or poorly-fitted night guards can affect bite and even cause problems like TMJ to worsen. However, working with a skilled dentist and getting a properly fitted nightguard should not cause any problems or discomfort.
Should the guard be worn on the upper or lower teeth?
Generally, the best results come from using a night guard on the lower arch. However, some patients may have a specific preference or need to protect veneers or other dental work on the top arch. In these cases, an upper guard might be a better option.
Will I need to use a night guard forever?
The answer depends on the person and the cause of the clenching and grinding. If you grind your teeth, it may have to do with stress and anxiety in your life. If these problems subside, you may not need to use the night guard as much. However, it’s impossible to tell on your own, and unless your dentist says otherwise, it is usually better to continue wearing a night guard to protect your teeth.
How do I keep my guard clean?
Every day, you should rinse and brush your night guard thoroughly, allowing it to dry completely. It should be stored in a case to prevent warping. On a weekly basis, you should deep clean the guard with a denture cleaner or other acrylic cleaners to ensure that it stays sanitary and lasts as long as possible.
Is it ever a good idea to wear a night guard during the day?
Some people do grind their teeth during the day and might benefit from wearing a guard during the day. Your dentist will be able to advise you on whether this is a good idea for you.
Do I really need a nightguard?
Many people are resistant to getting a night guard. They think they don’t need it or that it won’t really help protect their teeth. The problem is that bruxism is gradual, and you won’t notice the problems until they are very advanced and usually irreversible. Preventing damage today will ensure you have strong, healthy teeth for years to come.
Protect Your Teeth
If you’re ready to protect your teeth and learn more about getting fitted for a custom night guard, call Dr. Lazare’s office in New York, NY, today at 212-861-2599.