What Is a Night Guard and How Does it Work: A Quick Look
A mouth guard is a device that covers the teeth and protects them from damage. Usually, night mouth guards are made from clear plastic or resin and resemble teeth-whitening trays. You may also hear night guards called bite splints, occlusal guards, oral guards, or occlusal splints.
Night guards can be used for many reasons, but they always work by providing a protective barrier over the teeth. They can prevent damage to the teeth from grinding or clenching during sleep. Night guards can also help with various oral health issues related to teeth grinding, such as tooth pain, jaw pain, and gum recession.
Night guards can be either store-bought or custom-made. Store-bought guards are typically not as expensive as customized ones but aren’t very effective. Custom-fitted night guards are usually more comfortable and effective since they are designed to fit the unique shape of an individual’s teeth.
10 Reasons to Wear a Night Guard
Stop Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
One of the most common reasons people are recommended to wear a night guard is to stop nighttime teeth grinding, medically known as bruxism. Bruxism involves a person grinding their teeth or clenching the jaw while sleeping, leading to wear and tear on the teeth and pain in the jaw.
Many people do not realize that they are grinding their teeth during sleep, so diagnosing this condition can be difficult. However, a common symptom of bruxism is pain in the mouth and jaw immediately upon waking, and experiencing this is almost always a sign that you are grinding your teeth at night.
Prevent Tooth Damage
If you grind your teeth at night, you will likely damage your teeth over time if you do not use a mouth guard. However, even people who do not grind their teeth may want to wear a night guard to prevent tooth damage at night.
Many people move frequently in their sleep, which can create an opportunity for the teeth to become injured. Especially for aging adults, nighttime tooth injury is common because the teeth naturally lose their strength with age and are easily susceptible to damage.
Reduce Jaw Pain
During sleep, a lot of people may also frequently open and close the mouth, which can cause the jaw to move in and out of uncomfortable positions. While this movement is not always a danger to the teeth, it can cause soreness in the jaw. By wearing a night guard, you can prevent pain in the jaw by ensuring that your jaw is always in a comfortable position as you sleep.
People who experience frequent headaches or migraines without an explanation may benefit from using a night guard. This is because, during sleep, some people tend to clench their teeth without realizing it, which can put pressure on the facial muscles. Extra pressure in these muscles has been shown to be linked to migraines in some people.
A night guard can relieve this pressure on the facial muscles by placing a cushion between the top and bottom teeth. This cushion then absorbs some of that pressure that occurs when you clench your mouth, so it won’t affect your muscles and lead to a daytime headache.
Avoid Enamel Loss
Wearing a mouth guard is essential for those with bruxism to prevent enamel loss. This is because, when you grind your teeth, you constantly wear down the enamel coating of your teeth, and this coating is what keeps your teeth strong and healthy.
Keep in mind, though, that you may also damage your enamel by wearing a night guard that needs to be cleaned properly. When you wear a dirty mouth guard, this is because you risk building up excess plaque on your teeth, eventually eroding the enamel lining.
Prevent TMJ Issues
People with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ disorder) often experience symptoms like facial pain, earaches, and dizziness. TMJ disorders are caused by inflammation in the joint that connects the top part of the mouth to the bottom part, and ongoing inflammation can affect the ability to talk and chew.
TMJ issues are often addressed with various treatments, but a night guard is usually part of the equation. This is because a night guard can help align the inflamed joint associated with this disorder during sleep, eliminating some of the inflammation during the day.
Enhance Sleep Quality
Teeth grinding during the night often causes discomfort and pain, which results in sleep disturbances. People who grind their teeth often wake up in the middle of the night. Wearing a night guard can relieve the symptoms of teeth grinding, allowing for more restful sleep.
Avoid Gum Recession
You can slow or prevent the onset of gum disease when you wear a night guard. This is because a night guard can relieve the pressure your top and bottom teeth put on each other while you sleep, preventing gum recession. Receding gums, then, are a part of what causes gum disease.
Protect Dental Work
If you have ever worn braces, you may already have a night guard to help keep your teeth straight well after the braces were removed. However, wearing a night guard can also protect tooth implants, crowns, and other dental work from getting broken as you sleep.
Maintain Overall Oral Health
By wearing a night guard, you can prevent teeth injuries, including enamel loss. This will, in turn, keep your teeth strong and healthy and prevent issues in the gums and jaw.
Night guards are plastic or acrylic mouthpieces designed to protect the teeth, gums, and jaw during sleep. Wearing a mouth guard at night can protect against teeth grinding and some TMJ issues and even prevent gum recession that leads to gum disease.
How do I know if I need a night guard?
Nearly all patients with bruxism are recommended to wear a night guard. Other patients may consult a dentist to see if symptoms like jaw pain and tooth injuries can be prevented by wearing a night guard.
How long does it take to see results from the night guard?
A night guard will typically relieve a person’s mouth pain or other issues within one to two weeks. However, results may be slow, and it could take up to three months to see full results.
How long do nightguards last?
Night guards typically last a year, though well-cared-for ones may last up to three years.
How do I care for and clean my night guard?
A night guard should be cleaned after every use with a warm water rinse and a light brushing with a toothbrush. About once a week or once every five uses, you should also soak your night guard in a solution with a denture cleaning tablet.