What are Dental Nightguards and Why Are They Needed?

Nightguards are used to protect your teeth at night while you sleep.  Nightguards are suitable for treating a range of conditions, including bruxism, TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder), and sleep apnea. The common theme is that they help your mouth stay in the ideal position while you sleep, protecting your teeth and the rest of your mouth.

The biggest advantage of wearing a nightguard is its ability to protect your teeth.  Wearing a mouthguard at night will protect your teeth from accidents or trauma from external impact.  For example, if you grind your teeth in your sleep, the mouth guard will add a layer separating them from each other. This way, your teeth won’t be able to grind directly on each other, which can lead to damage.

Teeth grinding at night, called bruxism, thins the enamel of your teeth.  This leads to another issue called dentin hypersensitivity.  While sleeping you are unaware of the grinding except perhaps waking up with a sore jaw.

Nightguards are breathable and often used as an adjunct for treatment of sleep apnea.  They help separate the upper and lower jaws from one another keeping the airway open.

If you have the nightguard professionally made by your dentist they are custom-made so they are comfortable wearing and fit snugly over your teeth.  Nightguards are a retainer-like plastic that can be hard or soft and can be worn on either the bottom or top set of teeth.

Since patients have different teeth patterns, a nightguard is custom-made for each patient by molding it to fit your teeth without the risk of being uncomfortable or unnecessarily bulky. It has many names; therefore, when you hear dentists talk about a mouthguard, occlusal guard, bite splint, dental guard, or nocturnal bite plate, they refer to the same thing.

If you think your bruxism may be linked to stress or anxiety, whether that’s because of work, relationships, or economics, try to spend at least ten minutes a night–before you go to bed–practicing healthy meditation techniques. These often include strategies like mindfulness meditation and concentration meditation.

If you are unsure if you’re suffering from bruxism or not, here are a few of the most common symptoms of bruxism:

  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Headaches
  • Earaches
  • Jaw pain
  • Neck pain
  • Tooth pain
  • Fractured, chipped, or loose teeth
  • TMJ disorders

Teeth grinding overworks your jaw muscles so you wake up feeling sore. If left untreated, bruxism can wear down tooth enamel until you need porcelain crowns or other tooth restorations to repair your smile.

The sooner you get a night guard to protect your smile, the better your chance you have of avoiding expensive dental procedures and uncomfortable daily pains.

Soft Dental Nightguards

A soft nightguard is manufactured from soft, pliable rubber materials such as silicone or plastic that are more flexible than hard nightguards. This type of nightguard is often used if you have mild bruxism or don’t grind but clench your teeth. Soft nightguards are more comfortable, but they aren’t always as long-lasting. Even though they are less expensive than hard nightguards, they don’t provide the same level of protection.

Soft nightguards, which are readily available at local drug stores, worsen bruxism because the jaws naturally prefer to chew soft items. These nightguards protect teeth, but they can exacerbate muscle and joint discomfort by making these muscles work harder when you should be relaxing.

Hard Dental Nightguards

Hard nightguards are most effective for people who grind their teeth a lot. They are incredibly stiff and constructed of tough materials such as acrylic. This type of nightguard must be custom-fit utilizing a dental mold or a self-impression mold. An impression is used to create a unique guard that will fit only your mouth.

Hard guards are not easily bent and will not feel flexible in your mouth. They usually are more helpful in protecting your teeth, but they’re also more expensive. Durability gives hard nightguards the advantage over soft nightguards; they are more durable since they can withstand more abuse.

Columbia Dental is able to fabricate your nightguard in its digital dental lab; both hard nightguards or soft nightguards to protect your teeth at night while you sleep.

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