Occlusal guards, usually called night guards, are designed for people who clench or grind their teeth at night. This behavior is called sleep bruxism, and though there are many factors that can cause bruxism, it is usually brought on by stress. Grinding teeth during the day is best helped by being mindful of the behavior and making an effort to relax the jaw, but during the night bruxism becomes difficult to control as it’s a subconscious action.
This is where night guards become especially helpful. They sit over your teeth like a retainer, but have an extra-thick layer of plastic that keeps the upper and lower sets of teeth from touching when your mouth is closed. If you experience sleep bruxism, night guards can offer relief in a few ways.
A main benefit to night guards is that they provide protection from the enamel loss and wear on the teeth that friction can cause. They can also protect the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects the jaw to the skull. Clenching and grinding teeth can compress the joint and potentially cause damage. A tense jaw can also create pain in the facial and/or neck muscles, along with headaches and earaches. Bruxism also has a damaging effect on the gums, as it can accelerate gum recession. Night guards keep your teeth, gums, and jaw protected at night and can also alleviate the insomnia and snoring you might experience as a side effect of sleep bruxism.
Because night guards help prevent wear, they can also help you save time and money as you avoid repairs on damaged or broken teeth. If you think you might need a night guard, call your dentist to set up an appointment. The guard is made to fit your mouth, so your dentist will need to take a mold of your teeth before having it manufactured.
If you’re located in North Carolina, please call us at 919.460.9665 and we will be happy to help you with night guards or any other dental needs.