WHAT IS A NIGHT GUARD?
A night guard is a device which is placed in the mouth on teeth to help deal with grinding or clenching. Night guards can also be called occlusal guards, occlusal splints or bite splints. All these names refer to the same thing, a plastic appliance which is placed in the mouth over some or all upper or lower teeth to prevent the destructive effects of grinding and clenching.
Night guards can come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. Only your dentist can help you determine which type is best for you depending upon your specific situation.
WHY WOULD I NEED A NIGHT GUARD?
It is very common for people to grind or clench their teeth. At best this leads to worn, flat and unattractive teeth. At worst it can cause quite a number of symptoms affecting teeth, muscles and the jaw joint (TMJ). Teeth can become very sensitive to cold and hot, they can become loose or even break into pieces. The force of grinding is generated by the chewing muscles and they can become very sore and tired from this effort. Sometimes there is limited ability to open because the muscles are so tight making it difficult to eat. Also, the muscle tenderness or spasm can lead to headaches and neck aches. The last area affected by the force of grinding is the jaw joint or TMJ (temporomandibular joint). Because of this constant buffeting of grinding and clenching, the TMJ can become very sore, can start popping or clicking and can even stop opening or more alarming, closing. These symptoms can all be very difficult to cope with. A night guard is often the best way of treating these problems, both to remedy them and hopefully to prevent them from occurring or increasing in severity.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A NIGHT GUARD?
There are many benefits to wearing a night guard. The ultimate purpose of a night guard is to decrease the forces of grinding and clenching. This requires a very accurate, custom made guard with very specific properties. Any over the counter guard can protect teeth from the forces of grinding but will not change the amount of force at all. These can sometime actually increase the force generated by the muscles. This can lead to continue or even increased symptoms in a person’s muscles, including headaches, and also a person’s jaw joint. Yes the teeth will be protected but at what cost.
A properly made night guard will not only protect the teeth but will decrease the force on the muscles and joint buy guiding the bite position and also the movement of the lower jaw (mandible). If this is done properly the total force generated by the muscles of chewing will be decreased by 60% leading to comfortable relaxed muscles, decreased headaches, move freedom in jaw movements and of course, more comfortable, protected teeth.
FUTHER INFORMATION ABOUT NIGHT GUARDS:
Because of the complexity of the body, many of the symptoms of grinding can affect more than teeth. This can include the muscles, jaw joint, neck and upper back. Dealing with the type of complexity requires a thorough examination to determine the cause of these symptoms. Sometimes we refer patients for physical therapy as an additional way of treating the symptoms of grinding. Often a night guard is prescribed and is custom made in our in house lab to very specific specifications to accomplish the 60% reduction we are after. To be precise enough to control forces properly a night guard is fabricated from very strong, hard, translucent plastic. Because it works patients find it very comfortable and “won’t be caught without it”.
For more information, call our office and we will be glad to show you a night guard and explain the benefits to you.
- 650 Brighton Ave. Portland, ME 04102