Do you grind or clench your teeth while you’re asleep? Or has Dr. Eric Yao recommended that you get a nightguard and you’re wondering whether this type of treatment could help you? Maybe you’re skeptical about what nightguards do and how they work. If that’s you’re story, continue reading to learn more about how and why many patients get nightguards and love them.
A nightguard, occlusal guard, or bite splint is a dental device that’s placed over the teeth to prevent patients from grinding or clenching their teeth in the middle of the night (the medical term for grinding and clenching is “bruxism”). When a patient grinds or clenches their teeth while sleeping, the teeth can be damaged or even move out of position. A nightguard keeps the teeth aligned and protects them from grinding and clenching forces. They function as a layer of protection between the top teeth and the bottom teeth.
Most nightguards are made of plastic and they’re custom-made to fit precisely over the top and the bottom teeth. Sometimes, the guards only cover the upper teeth, but patients who have worn braces or some other orthodontic appliance will likely be given a bite splint for both the top and bottom teeth.
As a protective layer, the nightguard keeps the patient from grinding the teeth such that the teeth get cracked, chipped, or worn down. They offer a cushion of protection and they also give the jaw some much needed rest during sleep. Because they cut down on clenching and grinding, nightguards can actually make it easier for you to sleep too.
Bruxism is a common problem and you may have a tendency to grind or clench your teeth and not even know about it. Often, it’s the patient’s partner who notices the problem first because the noise awakens them. A dentist can confirm whether the patient has the problem or not.
Those who suffer from bruxism may develop dental issues over time if the problem is not managed properly. Grinding and clenching the teeth during sleep can cause the teeth to lose the outer protective layer of enamel. And unfortunately, once this enamel is gone, it doesn’t come back. This enamel loss can lead to a variety of dental issues including cavities.
Nightguards fit snugly over the patient’s teeth, so while they’ll provide protection, they won’t interfere with breathing or speaking. The nightguards are transparent so they’re discreet and easy to slip into and out of the mouth. They’re designed to be comfortable on the teeth. Patients can drink water while wearing them but should avoid food and drinks that contain sugar in order to keep the guards clean and prevent bacteria build-up on the teeth during sleep. Most patients don’t put the nightguards into the mouth until bedtime and they wear them only during sleep.
There are other ways to treat bruxism, but nightguards are one of the simplest, most reliable treatment options available. For patients who have a big problem with grinding and clenching during sleep, Dr. Eric Yao may recommend that you take the following steps to diminish bruxism:
Nightguards are a painless, simple method that works to eliminate the problem of teeth grinding. It can take up to a week for patients to get used to the nightguard, but most patients feel comfortable with the appliance within very little time. Patients who have never worn a nightguard are advised to wear the guard for a few hours before bed to get familiar with how it feels. If the guard causes discomfort, speak with your dentist to have the uncomfortable parts refitted. Nightguards should be barely noticeable once they’ve been properly fitted to the patient’s mouth.