What is a night guard and what are its uses?

Have you ever woken up with headaches and jaw or facial pain? Do you feel tightness when you try to open your mouth? These can be worrying signs that you may be suffering from a condition called bruxism, which causes you to constantly grind your teeth and clench your jaws while asleep (and at times when you are awake).

Your dentist would be able to examine and diagnose bruxism and they are likely to give you steps to help relieve the symptoms and reduce the load on your jaw. It is likely that your dentist will also recommend a night guard. Night guards are a protective device that covers all or part of your teeth. It is primarily worn through the night to prevent you from grinding your teeth while you are sleeping.

Night guards are also useful in preventing wear and tear of your teeth and gums from constant grinding and clenching. They act as a barrier between your top and bottom teeth, providing relief from jaw pain, and possible headaches the morning after.

While this condition typically occurs when you are sleeping, you could also do so subconsciously while awake or under mental stress. Occasional teeth grinding should not be a cause for concern, but long-term, consistent bruxism can lead to joint problems, chipped or broken teeth, loss of tooth enamel, and in extreme cases, loss of teeth. Although a night guard cannot cure or prevent bruxism, it can reduce the detrimental effect of bruxism on the teeth and the jaw joint.

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Signs you suffer from bruxism

Some bruxism symptoms you may suffer from include:

  • Teeth grinding
  • Tooth pain or sensitivity
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Waking up with headaches
  • Jaw, neck and face pain and soreness
  • Fatigue from lack of sleep

What is a night guard made of?

Also known as dental guards, mouth guards, nocturnal bite plates, or bite splints, night guards are made either from soft, dual laminate or hard acrylic materials.

The ideal night guard fits snugly on and around your teeth and is comfortable. Irrespective of the type of night guard, good mouth protectors should not restrict breathing or cause pain. Ideally, they should be easy to clean and durable so they can be reused without compromising on protection.

Types of night guards

Even though different varieties of night guards exist, their general function is the same — they protect your teeth from damage caused due to grinding.

There are three general types of mouthguards:

1.Stock mouth protectors are ready-to-wear and come in a range of premade shapes and sizes. They’re economical and generally don’t offer a comfortable fit or high protection level because of their one-shape-fits-all attribute.

They are readily available at most goods and department stores. They can be bulky, make breathing and talking difficult, and provide little to no protection.

2.Boil and bite mouth protectors are also readily available at many stores and off-the-counter at pharmacies and may offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. It is made from thermoplastic material and is named after the process of moulding them.

3.Custom-made mouthguards, as the name suggests, are individually designed, and made in a dental office, or a professional laboratory, such as ours, based on your dentist’s instructions. A dentist takes an impression of your teeth and gums, then orders a guard personalised to your bite. It is custom-designed and custom-adjusted.

Due to the use of special material and because of the extra time and work involved, this custom-fitted mouthguard provides the most comfort and protection. Night guards produced in our professional lab typically come in three versions:

  • Soft night guards: Made from flexible, rubbery materials, these night guards are the most common type and are used to treat mild or occasional cases of bruxism.
  • Hard night guards: Made from firmer plastic, these night guards are designed to withstand the force of severe grinding. They are extremely rigid but durable.
  • Dual laminate or hybrid night guards: These mouth devices are soft on the inside and hard on the outside, providing ample protection and comfort to moderately heavy teeth grinders.

Caring for your night guard

Mouthguards pick up bacteria from your mouth, hence be sure to clean your teeth very well before putting a mouthguard on. Here are some easy tips to keep your mouthguard in top shape:

  • Rinse it with cold water and use a brush and soapy water to clean it after each use to remove bacterial plaque and debris. Let it air dry.
  • Don’t expose the mouthguard to extreme heat, such as direct sunlight or hot water, as it could its shape could distort.
  • Store the mouthguard in a sturdy, ventilated container when not in use.
  • Bring the mouthguard to your routine dental check-ups so the dentist can examine it for cracks and other signs of wear. Your dentist may also give you an antimicrobial solution in which you can soak your night guard to remove any bacteria.

How long do night guards last?

How long your mouthguard lasts will depend on how frequently you use it and how much “wear and tear” it undergoes. A custom-fitted mouthguard can last several years with proper care.

The lifespan of a nightguard will depend on the quality of the guard, the severity of teeth grinding/clenching, and how well you take care of the guard.

Over-the-counter night guards are cheaper and not as resilient as custom-fit mouthguards. You may need to replace them every few months.

Micris Dental Clinic houses a state-of-the-art laboratory where our dentists can design a tailor-made night guard personalised to your bite. Our high-quality, durable night guards are comfortable and offer optimal protection to your teeth and mouth. Give us a call on +971 4 330 0441 to know more about night guards or to book your next dental check-up.

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