Many people grind their teeth without even realising it until their dentist notices or their partner hears them in their sleep. A night guard can be worn to help people who grind their teeth while sleeping. A night guard doesn’t actually prevent a person from grinding their teeth. Rather, it shields and cushions the teeth so that when you do grind your teeth, the damage is minimal. Dr Moira Wong tells us more about night guards and the importance of wearing one.
Is a night guard the same as a brace?
While a night guard is an appliance placed onto the teeth, it’s important to note that it’s not the same as a brace. A night guard is a passive appliance that separates the upper teeth from the lower teeth. It absorbs some of the force when your teeth rub together, reducing tension in the jaw. A brace is an active appliance that actually moves the teeth.
Why should I wear a night guard?
When people grind their teeth at night, this causes wear between their upper and lower teeth.
Different people grind their teeth at different rates, at different times in their life. The rubbing of the upper teeth against the lower teeth can result in a loss of tooth structure, that is enamel, which can lead to tooth fractures, restorations and loss of teeth in the long term. By closing a night guard between your teeth, this rubbing action can be avoided.
What causes people to grind their teeth?
Teeth grinding appears to be an expression of day to day stress. Some people have irritable bowels when they’re stressed, others have headaches and some grind their teeth. It tends to be a subconscious thing and tends to occur a lot in teenage girls during exams and then again in the early twenties and can come and go again after that.
How is a night guard made?
Night guards can be made of different materials and there is a whole range of them from simple to complex. The simplest night guard can be made of soft material, that some patients find comforting to chew against. Other more sophisticated night guards can be constructed in a way that corrects and balances the biting forces between teeth. This can lead to a reduction in chewing habits and release tension in the muscles.
Simple night guards can be made by your dentist who takes impressions of your teeth. The more complex night guards, used to treat severe grinding issues due to an incorrect bite are usually constructed with detailed measurements of jaw movements, where these readings are incorporated into bespoke appliances, which are normally fitted by a restorative specialist. In more complex cases, input from an orthodontist and restorative specialist is beneficial in order to create the optimal appliance.
What if a person needs a night guard but doesn’t use it?
If someone doesn’t take action to protect their teeth from grinding, then they could be wearing away their teeth without realising it and experience pain in their teeth. They can also experience jaw pain and headaches and may need extensive dentistry to repair parts of the teeth that have worn away.
Will I have to use a night guard forever?
A night guard does not have to be worn forever. Some patients express their day to day stress by grinding their teeth during their sleep. During more stressful times in life, this can worsen and consequently during less stressful times, the grinding can be of a lesser extent.
Many patients find a well fitted, custom made appliance comforting and are often happy to use it as a preventative measure in the long term. The key is to get the right degree of flexibility and cushioning which may vary between patients.
It’s important that everyone attend regular dental check-ups by the same dentist who can keep track of their dental history and habits. Damage can be picked up quickly in this case and preventative measures can be put in place to prevent further tooth damage.
If you grind your teeth and would like to talk about this with a specialist orthodontist such as Dr Moira Wong, please visit her Top Doctors profile.