A night guard is typically made of plastic and fits over some or all of the upper and/or lower teeth.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism is the medical name for teeth grinding and teeth clenching. Whilst we may all grind and clench our teeth occasionally, it is grinding of the teeth on a regular basis that causes damage and needs attention by a dental practitioner. As it is an unconscious reflex, many people are not even aware that they grind or clench their teeth during sleep. Interestingly, grinding exerts far more pressure than that of a normal bite. If you wake up with a dull, constant headache or a sore jaw, you may be experiencing a symptom of bruxism.
Bruxism is usually caused by a malocclusion, which is when teeth don’t fit together properly when the mouth is closed, but stress, alcohol, caffeine and smoking can make the condition worse.
Chronic teeth grinding can result in fracturing and loosening of teeth and, in some cases, total loss of the teeth. It can detrimentally affect your jaw which can lead to hearing loss and TMJ (Temporomandibular joint). Damage to the jawbone can inflict intense headaches and migraines, or severe neck and shoulder pain.
Children and bruxism
Up to the age of about six or seven, children frequently grind their teeth. No one knows exactly why children grind their teeth but they usually grow out of it. Even though grinding of baby teeth rarely results in problems, teeth grinding can still cause jaw pain and headaches in younger children. If your child complains of headache, tooth sensitivity or pain, you should mention this to the dentist at their checkup.
Bruxism can be successfully treated by a custom-made, specially-fitted dental night guard that is worn during sleep to prevent unconscious teeth grinding. The modern ones we use are CAD CAM (made by a computer to have ideal contours) and milled from a solid block of polycarbonate.
A dental night guard is a thin, horseshoe-shaped appliance made of hard plastic that fits between your upper and lower teeth, to prevent further damage to teeth by absorbing the force of clenching or grinding.
It is very important for the success of the bruxism treatment that the night guard fits perfectly and is comfortable and the only way to achieve this is for accurate impressions of your upper and lower teeth to be taken and used to create a model which the dentist uses to customise your night guard. It can take a few nights to adjust to wearing night guards but most people find that they get used to them quickly.