How Night Guards Can Help With Bruxism

by | Oct 26, 2023 | Bruxism

You’re peacefully sleeping, or so you think, but your teeth tell a different story. Morning after morning, you wake up with jaw pain, headaches, and worn-down teeth. These are common signs of bruxism, a condition characterized by teeth grinding and clenching. Fortunately, there’s a simple yet effective solution: night guards. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the world of bruxism, how night guards can help, and everything you need to know to get a good night’s sleep and protect your precious pearly whites!

Understanding Bruxism

Bruxism is a common but often misunderstood condition. It’s characterized by the involuntary grinding, gnashing, or clenching of teeth, primarily occurring during sleep. While some individuals may grind their teeth during the day, most bruxism activity happens at night, making it difficult to control consciously.

Bruxism can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress, anxiety, misaligned teeth, sleep disorders, and even lifestyle habits like excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption. The condition can affect anyone, from children to adults, and often goes undiagnosed until its consequences become noticeable.

The Consequences of Untreated Bruxism

Untreated bruxism can have serious consequences on your oral health, overall well-being, and daily life. Some of the most common issues associated with bruxism include:

  • Tooth Damage: The continuous grinding and clenching can wear down tooth enamel, leading to tooth sensitivity, fractures, and even tooth loss.
  • Jaw Pain: The excessive pressure on your jaw joint can lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, causing pain, clicking, and restricted jaw movement.
  • Headaches and Earaches: The strain caused by bruxism can radiate to your head and ears, leading to chronic headaches and earaches.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Bruxism is noisy, and your grinding and clenching may wake you or your partner during the night, affecting your sleep quality.
  • Stress and Anxiety: Bruxism can be both a cause and a consequence of stress and anxiety, creating a vicious cycle that affects your mental well-being.
  • Altered Facial Appearance: In severe cases, bruxism can lead to facial changes, including a squared-off appearance of the jawline.

What Are Night Guards?

Night guards, also known as dental or occlusal splints, are dental appliances designed to alleviate the symptoms and consequences of bruxism. These guards create a protective barrier between your upper and lower teeth, preventing them from making direct contact. By doing so, night guards reduce the damage caused by grinding and clenching, providing relief from the painful symptoms of bruxism.

How Night Guards Work

Night guards work by redistributing the force of your bite, preventing your teeth from coming into direct contact. The key mechanisms that make night guards effective include:

  • Cushioning: The soft, resilient material of night guards absorbs the pressure and friction generated during grinding and clenching, protecting your teeth from excessive wear.
  • Alignment: Night guards help maintain proper jaw alignment, reducing the stress on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and relieving jaw pain and headaches.
  • Noise Reduction: The barrier created by night guards muffles the noise generated by teeth grinding, improving your sleep quality and your partner’s rest.

Different Types of Night Guards

Night guards come in various forms to suit different needs and preferences. The three main types of night guards are:

  • Custom-Fit Night Guards: These are professionally made by your dentist. They provide the best fit and comfort, as they are tailored to your specific mouth shape.
  • Boil-and-Bite Night Guards: Available over-the-counter, these guards are softened in boiling water and then molded to your teeth. While they offer a better fit than one-size-fits-all guards, they may not be as comfortable as custom-fit options.
  • One-Size-Fits-All Night Guards: These are the most affordable but offer the least comfort and protection. They are not custom-fitted and may not provide an ideal solution for those with severe bruxism.

How to Get a Night Guard

Getting a night guard typically involves the following steps:

  1. Consult Your Dentist: If you suspect you have bruxism or have noticed any related symptoms, consult your dentist. They will evaluate your condition and recommend the appropriate type of night guard.
  2. Custom-Made Guards: If your dentist recommends custom-fit night guards, they will take impressions of your teeth. These impressions are then used to create a personalized night guard for you.
  3. Over-the-Counter Options: If custom-made guards aren’t necessary, your dentist may suggest boil-and-bite night guards or recommend reputable brands for you to purchase.
  4. Adjustment and Follow-Up: Once you have your night guard, your dentist may need to make minor adjustments to ensure it fits perfectly. Follow-up appointments may be necessary to monitor your progress and make any needed modifications.

Over-the-Counter Nightguards Versus a Nightguard from Your Dentist

The choice between OTC nightguards and those obtained from a dentist depends on your individual needs and priorities. OTC nightguards are a budget-friendly and convenient option, but they may not offer the same level of comfort and protection as custom-made ones from a dentist. For more severe cases of bruxism or for those who prioritize a perfect fit and maximum protection, investing in a professionally made nightguard is often the preferred choice. Consulting with your dentist can help you determine which option is best for your specific situation, ensuring you find an effective solution for managing bruxism and protecting your oral health.

Tips for Using Night Guards

To make the most of your night guard and ensure its effectiveness, consider these tips:

  • Consistency: Wear your night guard every night, even if you don’t notice immediate discomfort. Consistency is key to long-term relief.
  • Cleaning: Clean your night guard thoroughly each morning to prevent bacterial growth. Use a soft toothbrush and non-abrasive toothpaste or a specialized cleaning solution.
  • Storage: Store your night guard in a clean, dry case to protect it from damage and contamination.
  • Regular Check-Ups: Continue seeing your dentist for regular check-ups to monitor your progress and ensure your night guard remains effective.

Caring for Your Night Guard

Proper maintenance of your night guard is essential to extend its lifespan and maintain its efficacy. Here’s how to care for your night guard:

  • Rinse Before and After Use: Rinse your night guard with cold water before and after wearing it to remove any residue or debris.
  • Brush Gently: Use a soft toothbrush and a non-abrasive toothpaste or a specialized cleaner to clean your night guard. Avoid hot water, which can distort the material.
  • Dry Thoroughly: After cleaning, ensure the night guard is completely dry before storing it to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Store in Its Case: Always keep your night guard in its protective case when not in use. This prevents damage and keeps it clean.
  • Keep Away from Pets: Pets can be attracted to the scent of the night guard. Keep it out of their reach to prevent damage.

Get the Care you Need at Salling and Tate Dentistry

Are you waking up with jaw pain, recurring headaches, or worn-down teeth? If so, you might be suffering from bruxism. Bruxism can have serious consequences on your oral health and overall well-being. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms or suspect you have bruxism, it’s essential to seek professional help. At Salling and Tate Dentistry, we can diagnose your condition and recommend appropriate treatments, such as custom-made night guards, to provide relief and protect your teeth from further damage. Don’t let bruxism disrupt your life – take the first step towards a pain-free smile and peaceful nights by addressing this common issue. Call us today at 910-256-9040 or book your appointment online!