What are Night Guards, and why are they important?
It has been well stated that a smile is one’s greatest asset, yet it is not always safeguarded as such. Whether you have all natural teeth, or have just spent a small fortune restoring or cosmetically enhancing your smile, a night guard may be the best way to look after your investment. A night guard (also known as an occlusal splint, a bite guard, and a muscle relaxation appliance) is a device most often recommended as the first line of treatment for bruxism (teeth grinding) and TMD (dysfunction of the TMJ). It is usually worn while you sleep to prevent damaging your teeth by the clenching or grinding associated with either the psychological aspects of stress, one’s abnormal bite, a sleep disorder, or a combination of the above. Nightly wear significantly reduces daytime bruxism, because more sensitized, leading to a heightened awareness whenever the opposing teeth are in contact during abnormal function. A night guard can help reduce your grinding and TMJ troubles by:
- Helping to relax your jaw muscles, which in turn reduce muscle spasms
- Alleviating your headaches
- Enabling your jaw to find its best position, since teeth are prevented from locking together
- Substituting for your teeth when it comes to wear — it is better to grind the night guard than your own teeth.
During the day you should be aware that the only time the teeth should meet is when you chew and when you swallow. All other times think lips together teeth apart.
Grinding can wear away the surfaces of your teeth causing them to become painful or loose. Although maxillary (upper arch) devices are recommended as the treatment of choice, a lower arch device is indicated when a patient objects to having acrylic visible, or when they have a severe gag reflex with the upper arch device. Quality night guards are relatively inexpensive, and can prevent further wear of your national dentition. They will also help to protect your investment after undergoing a smile makeover. With night guards, it is not enough to simply wear one; they must also be routinely checked and adjusted. Ill devised or poorly adjusted night guards often do not succeed in resolving the problem. Well adjusted night guards (and the acceptable restoration of affected teeth), will allow a patient with bruxism to live a normal life, without significant tooth wear or other dental-related traumas. Remember, we only get one set of adult teeth, so please protect your smile.