Are you grinding your teeth, clenching your jaw, or having trouble sleeping? Night guards can help. But do you know what they’re made of and how they work?
Night guards are removable mouth appliances that fit snugly over your upper or lower teeth while you sleep. Dentists prescribe night guards to protect patients from the damaging effects of bruxism (teeth grinding). They’re often made of hard materials like plastic or acrylic, but few people really understand what’s inside a night guard and how it works.
This article provides a comprehensive guide to night guards, exploring what they’re made of and how they work in detail. We’ll also cover the various types of night guards available, their pros and cons, and when you may need to consider using one. With this, you can make an informed decision about whether a night guard is the best solution for you or your loved ones.
What is a night guard?
A night guard is a protective dental appliance worn over the upper teeth or lower teeth at night while sleeping to prevent tooth grinding (also known as bruxism). It’s typically made of a flexible acrylic material that fits snugly against the top and bottom teeth. Night guards provide a physical barrier between the upper and lower teeth, preventing them from touching when clenching or grinding occurs. Wearing a night guard can help reduce jaw pain, headaches, and other symptoms associated with bruxism as well as improve overall oral health.
Types of Night Guards
There are two main types of night guards: over-the-counter and custom-made.
Over-The-Counter Night Guards
Over-the-counter (OTC) night guards are widely available at drugstores, supermarkets, and online retailers. These oral appliances tend to be made of a hard plastic material which is less expensive than custom-made guards. OTC night guards are pre-formed and come in one size that is supposed to fit all teeth sizes and shapes. Although they may provide some protection while you sleep, OTC night guards may not fit properly and can be uncomfortable.
Custom-Made Night Guards
Custom-made night guards are designed specifically for your mouth and teeth, providing the best fit and comfort. This type of night guard is usually made of a soft material or hard acrylic material that is molded to perfectly fit your teeth and gums. Custom soft night guards or hard acrylic guards provide superior protection against bruxism and are more comfortable to wear than OTC guards.
How Do Night Guards Work?
Protection from Damage and Wear to Teeth
Night guards are designed to protect your teeth from the damaging effects of bruxism. When worn regularly, night guards provide a physical barrier between your upper and lower teeth, preventing them from touching and grinding against each other. This helps prevent teeth from damage or wear caused by clenching or grinding during the night.
Relieve Jaw Pain and Facial Pain Caused by Bruxism
Night guards can also help to relieve jaw pain and facial discomfort caused by teeth grinding and clenching. Grinding your teeth puts a lot of strain on the muscles in your jaw, which can lead to chronic pain. Wearing a night guard helps to reduce this strain by providing a cushion between your upper and lower teeth. This prevents the teeth from grinding against each other and reduces muscle tension in the jaw, relieving pain and discomfort.
Reduce Tension Headaches or Chronic Headaches
The effects of teeth grinding can also cause tension headaches. Wearing a night guard helps to reduce the stress on your jaws and facial muscles, which in turn can help to reduce tension headaches. Night guards also reduce the amount of saliva released throughout the night, which can contribute to headaches.
Help Treat Sleep Apnea and Snoring Issues
Dental guards can also help treat sleep apnea and snoring issues. Sleep apnea is a disorder that affects how you breathe while you sleep, leading to pauses in breathing throughout the night. Snoring occurs when air passes through your throat, causing your soft pallet to vibrate and make a noise. Night guards help by providing a barrier between the upper and lower teeth, which prevents the soft pallet from vibrating and reduces snoring.
Reduce Tooth Sensitivity and Tooth Enamel Loss
Dental night guards can also help to reduce tooth sensitivity and tooth enamel loss. Tooth sensitivity is caused by tiny openings in the enamel that expose the underlying dentin layer, leading to pain when exposed to hot or cold temperatures. Wearing a night guard helps to protect your teeth from grinding and clenching, which reduces wear on the enamel and prevents further exposure to the dentin layer.
Benefits of Custom Night Guards
Night guards offer a number of benefits for people who suffer from bruxism or other sleep-related problems.
- They protect against tooth damage and wear caused by grinding and clenching.
- They help to relieve jaw pain, facial discomfort, tension headaches, and tooth sensitivity.
- They can help treat sleep apnea and snoring issues by providing a barrier between the upper and lower teeth.
How to Clean and Care for Your Mouth Guard
It is important to keep your mouthguard clean and in good condition to maintain optimal protection and comfort. After each use, you should rinse your night guard with cold water and use a toothbrush or fingernail brush to remove any food particles or plaque. You can also soak your night guard in a denture-cleaning solution for a few minutes to help remove any bacteria or plaque.
Be sure to dry your night guard completely before putting it back in its case, and do not use hot water when cleaning. You should also replace your night guard every two to three years.
Schedule a Consultation for a Custom-Made Night Guard
Night guards are an effective way to prevent further damage caused by bruxism and other sleep-related issues. If you suffer from teeth grinding or clenching, it is important to talk to your dentist about the best treatment options. Custom-made night guards provide superior protection and comfort compared to OTC night guards and can help reduce the risk of long-term dental problems.
Schedule a consultation with the team at McDonogh Dental today to see how you can benefit from a custom-made night guard.