How do I know if I need a night guard? If I do need one, what kind should I get? What are the differences between ones from the drug store and the one I would get from my dentist?
We asked a number of dentists to help clear up some of our questions regarding these appliances. Read on to hear what they had to say.
In my office, about 33% of my patients need and wear night guards. The reasons vary, but the most common three are:
- TMJ pain and the night guard is designed to stop clenching, thus minimize the TMJ pain.
- The patient has severe wear on their teeth, either back teeth or front teeth or both front and back teeth. Most people do 100 X’s more grinding at night while asleep than they do while awake during the day. This appliance stops the nighttime grinding.
- The appliance is worn to protect a lot of dentistry that has been performed (usually a lot of ceramic crowns), which can be broken while grinding at night.
Store bought night guards do protect the teeth. They are bulkier and are usually much looser, flopping around at night while sleeping. They also can’t be made to stop grinding, as is needed in TMJ pain. It is our experience that about 50% of dental insurance companies cover a percentage of the cost of the night guard. We also make snore appliances which are highly effective, and they are nothing more than an upper and lower guard connected at a forward bite.
Night guards are an excellent way to prevent trauma to teeth from night-time grinding and clenching. If you notice your back teeth wearing flat or your front teeth wearing short, it is important to do something to prevent this destruction of your teeth from getting out of hand. Store bought night guards can protect your teeth from trauma but will do nothing to prevent or stop trauma of the jaw joint known as the TMJ (Tempromandibular Joint). In fact, store-bought night guards, particularly the soft kind, can cause increased damage to your TMJ and the muscles that allow you to chew. Also, if the bite on the night guard is uneven, it can lead to severe displacement of your teeth that may require orthodontics (braces) to correct. A custom-made mouthguard made just for your mouth by your dentist can prevent tooth trauma as well as prevent TMJ disorders and pain. It is important to consult with your dentist prior to starting any night guard use.
Obviously, if their dentist told them they are wearing down their teeth they need a night guard or sometimes braces to realign their bite. If they are having jaw pain they might need a special night guard. If there is pain I would not recommend one from a store. If they only need to protect their teeth from nocturnal bruxing a soft night guard may be ok. I would look for one that they can boil and then fit to their teeth. Something that goes between the teeth but moves freely I do not think will be stable enough to be protective. Night guards made in a dental office from a mold of your teeth will fit much better and should last longer.
Night guards can be helpful for patients who grind their teeth, for protecting dental work, for those who snore or suffer from a temporomandibular joint disorder. Especially in the case of the latter, the dentists we talked to highly recommend using a night guard that was professionally made by a dentist.
Don’t have a dentist or are interested in one of the ones who provided an answer to our question? Click their name to read more about them, or search our database to find a dentist near you.