What is a night guard and why would anybody need one? Well, so many people are grinding and clenching their teeth during sleep these days. Many experts believe stress is a factor but other causes may exist. Dentists are well trained to recognize signs of grinding so that they can help minimize the discomfort and damaging effects. But, when they recommend a custom night guard, can’t you just by the cheaper version at the Drugstore?
Let me answer that for you, but first, I’d like to talk about what your Dentist sees that triggers the night guard recommendation.
Tooth Grinding Signs & Symptoms
Some people grind or clench their teeth during stressful times throughout the day. For example, a stressful commute in traffic might set off tooth clenching. Alternately, you may be facing a deadline at work and remembering this causes you to grind your teeth. People who weight train are likely to clench their teeth during heavy lifting. Yet, other people clench and/or grind their teeth during sleep. As such, they may not be aware at all that they are doing so. They might not know that they need to be wearing a night guard.
Here are signs your Dentist sees that would suggest you are grinding/clenching your teeth:
- Enamel is worn or stripped off your teeth
- Frequent chipping of teeth especially front teeth
- Broken dental fillings or damage to dental crowns and bridges
- Quickly progressing gum recession
- Jaw soreness
- Muscle soreness (think cheeks and temples)
- Frequent tension headaches
Night Guards: What can they do for you?
First of all, what is a night guard?
A night guard is a horseshoe-shaped acrylic appliance that fits on your upper OR lower teeth. How does it help you? Firstly, it protects your tooth enamel during destructive grinding. Secondly, it provides a smooth surface on which your teeth can glide around. This minimizes locking together of your teeth and therefore, lateral side-to-side forces that can damage your jaw. Thirdly, a night guard minimizes gum recession that occurs as a result of tooth grinding.
Night Guards: Which kind is best?
The night guards that you can purchase at a Drugstore are designed so you can heat them and bite into them. This shapes them and “customizes” a stock piece of material to your teeth. But, are they any good? Well, they certainly are better than nothing. They will act as padding in between opposing teeth during grinding and this will reduce tooth damage. However, when you heat and bite into the store-bought night guard, your upper and lower teeth will lock into the acrylic. This locking in means that when you grind, your teeth are not free to glide around on a smooth surface.
When your Dentist designs a custom night guard for you, you are getting something that is far better compared to Drugstore versions. The reason is that the night guard your Dentist makes is a harder acrylic. You can’t bite into it. When it’s in place during sleep, your teeth glide around freely as you grind. No harmful lateral (side-to-side) forces. Goodbye, tooth wear. Goodbye, gum recession. And the custom night guard will diminish or eliminate jaw and muscle soreness.
Thank you for reading!
By Dr. Kyle Hornby, Kitchener Dentist
Our Kitchener Dentists are centrally located in Downtown Kitchener and provide Dental Care to families in Waterloo, Cambridge, Breslau and surrounding areas!
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your Kitchener Dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a dental condition or treatment.