The Crucial Role of Night Guards in Dental Care

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If you’ve never considered a night guard part of your dental care, it might be time to re-evaluate your opinion on how they can help keep you healthier. Whether you wake up with a sore jaw or you already show signs of grinding, there are many ways night guards can improve your dental care. Learn more about the crucial role night guards play in oral health here.

What Is A Night Guard
Night guards are acrylic-based mouthpieces that you wear at night to create a barrier between your upper and lower teeth that can protect them from wear and tear, support healthy breathing, and prevent jaw pain. There are several different types of night guards that may be right for you, including over-the-counter, non-functional, and functional.

Over-The-Counter Night Guards
This type of night guard comes from a pharmacy to provide people with a more affordable dental care choice. They’re not completely customized for your teeth, but you can mold them slightly to the shape of your mouth. They don’t provide the same level of protection as customized night guards, and they’re not as durable. Furthermore, there’s a slight risk of misalignment if you choose the wrong shape or size.

Non-Functional Night Guards
These are customized mouthpieces designed to fit your teeth like a retainer. They’re made of thin plastic material by a dentist based on a mold of your teeth. These are often short-term pieces that last between six and 12 months. They’re not typically adjustable, but they’re good starter options.

Functional Night Guards

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Functional options are completely custom dental guards made of thicker acrylic materials that dentists mold based on your teeth, jaw, and bite. They provide the best level of protection and a more precise fit. Typically, these types of night guards can last a while, depending on the wear and thickness. These night guards are also the ones known for preventing and alleviating various dental concerns.

Benefits of Night Guards
If you choose to add custom-made night guards to your sleep routine, you’re taking big steps toward better teeth and protecting them from clenching and grinding that can wear them down and damage the surrounding structures. However, they can also help with a variety of other conditions, including snoring, sleep apnea, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Night guards act as a cushion to protect teeth, as well as a stabilizer for the jaw to ensure your airways stay clear and open throughout the night.

When you use a night guard regularly, you can expect to get more restful sleep, fewer headaches, less tightness in your jaw muscles, and minimal wear and tear on your teeth.

Do You Need A Night Guard?
If you don’t snore or have TMJ, you might think you don’t need a night guard, but many people don’t even know that they grind their teeth or clench their jaws at night. These actions occur most often during light sleep when your brain doesn’t even record or remember what is happening. The only way to really confirm grinding or clenching is to examine your teeth for flat surfaces and broken edges. Your dentist will be able to tell you if they see damage from grinding.

Other reasons you might consider a night guard include morning headaches, tense muscles, and limited jaw movement. If you have any of these symptoms, a night guard may be the solution to better sleep and a healthier smile.

Maintaining Your Oral Health

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If you already have fillings, crowns, or dental implants, night guards can help protect these as well. They do so much more than just keep your teeth from grinding down! Clenching your jaw can end up damaging implants and fillings you have from years ago. With the constant pressure, you might even need to replace cracked or worn pieces — which can be expensive!

Getting the Right Night Guard
While starting with an over-the-counter or non-functional night guard is a good first step to ensure maximum protection and comfort, a customized functional night guard should be your ultimate goal. Functional night guards fit better and distribute the force of a clenched jaw more evenly. Furthermore, badly fitting night guards can have negative consequences, like bite changes.

Speak to a professional about getting a perfect fit to protect your mouth!

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