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A dental night guard is an overnight mouth guard — a thin oral appliance, similar to a retainer, that covers the biting surface of your teeth.
You wear it while you sleep to prevent heavy forces on the teeth from grinding and jaw clenching, a condition known as bruxism.
Bruxism affects about 10 percent of people and upwards of 15 percent of children. People tend to grind their teeth and clench their jaws when they’re experiencing stress or coping with anxiety. Doing so can wear down your teeth, ruin tooth enamel, increase tooth sensitivity, and cause jaw pain.
While toothaches, mouth soreness, and pain in the jaw muscles may be manageable, bruxism can have significant side effects and impact how you chew, eat, and speak. By wearing a night guard, you can prevent serious damage.
There are different types of night guards from which to choose.
Over-the-counter mouth guards are general mouth guards that you can pick up at the pharmacy without a prescription.
These are “one-size-fits-all” options that are low cost but are not necessarily the most comfortable mouth guards.
A custom night guard for bruxism is specifically designed to fit your mouth and help prevent you from grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw.
Your dentist will design one for you based on your specific jaw position and overall needs.
Research suggests a correlation between sleep apnea (which is characterized by abnormal breathing during sleep) and bruxism. Wearing a night guard creates a narrow passage between the jaws that can boost airflow, enhance breathing, and help relieve sleep apnea symptoms.
A night guard can shift your teeth. This is because night guards may put pressure on your teeth and slowly but surely move them over time. However, you can prevent this from happening by getting a custom night guard made just for you.
While over-the-counter night guards may not fit snugly in your mouth, a properly made custom-made night guard will not shift your teeth.
Here are some tips for getting used to your night guard:
Yes, you should wear your night guard every night. Habitual wear can help stop tooth damage and facial pain. If you only wear your night guard sometimes, bruxism can still damage your teeth at a slower pace.
Night guards are not necessarily comfortable, especially if you opt for an over-the-counter night guard that isn’t designed to fit in your mouth. A custom night guard will fit more comfortably.
You don’t necessarily need a night guard for grinding your teeth, but a night guard is intended to protect your teeth from the heavy forces of clenching or grinding. Because grinding your teeth can do some serious damage to them and cause jaw pain, it’s recommended that you wear a night guard.
There are many benefits of wearing a nightguard, including:
- Less tooth and jaw pain
- Less risk of developing Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
- Improved quality of sleep
- Decreased snoring
- Fewer headaches
- Better overall dental health