Do I Need a Night Guard?

A night guard is a special oral appliance that a person wears while sleeping, in order to reduce nighttime teeth grinding (known as bruxism).  Even if the patient continues to grind vigorously, the night guard will protect the teeth from wearing down.  Although you can buy an over-the-counter night guard, it is usually preferable to get a fitted, custom-made mouth guard of this type from a dentist or orthodontist. One important question that we can help you answer at Melbourne Orthodontics is whether you actually need one or not.

Bruxism: The Main Reason for a Night Guard

A lot of people don’t even realize that they grind their teeth at night, unless a spouse tells them or their orthodontist notices signs. One of the most common symptoms of bruxism is waking up in the morning with a headache. Other symptoms include pain in the face, jaw, or neck, although the presence of these symptoms can have other causes as well.

Nighttime teeth grinding can be caused by a number of different factors:

  • Young Age: It is quite normal for children transitioning between primary and permanent teeth to develop bruxism.  Sometimes grinding can subside after this stage of development, sometimes it can persist.  
  • Stress: People who are intensely emotional or stressed are more likely to grind their teeth.
  • Personality Types: People who are hyperactive or naturally aggressive are more likely to develop bruxism.
  • Medical Conditions: Certain health conditions can cause people to experience bruxism as a sort of side effect of another condition. 
  • Medications and Substances: Some medications prescribed for psychiatric reasons can cause teeth grinding as a side effect. Excessive use of tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol can also lead to bruxism.

Bruxism is a common dental problem. Grinding your teeth at night can actually damage the enamel on the teeth. In severe cases, it can lead to cracked teeth. It can also lead to associated side effects like sleep deprivation, headaches, and pain.

Nighttime teeth grinding can also lead to a more serious problem called Temporomandibular Dysfunction or Disorders (TMD).  The Temporomandibular Joints themselves are often abbreviated TMJs.  

TMD: Another Reason for a Night Guard

The temporomandibular joints connect the lower jaw to the skull. Problems with this joint can lead to Temporomandibular Dysfunction or Disorders (TMD), which causes pain and other problems for people who suffer from it.

In layman’s terms, this means that the joint that allows for lower jaw movement does not work normally. The condition can be caused by an injury to the jaw, bruxism, stress, or genetics. TMJ syndrome is another reason why your orthodontist might prescribe a night guard. Symptoms of TMD can include:

  • Discomfort while biting down
  • Pain or discomfort in the face, neck, jaw, or around the ears, or that extends down into the shoulders
  • Clicking or popping sounds in the jaw
  • Facial swelling on one or both sides

There are other possible causes of these symptoms however, so proper diagnosis is very important!

How a Night Guard Can Help

Ignoring the symptoms of nighttime teeth grinding will only lead to more serious problems down the road. It’s better to schedule an appointment with your general dentist or Melbourne Orthodontics in either our Melbourne or Indian Harbour Beach location. You can get fitted for a custom-made night guard to help you overcome the issue.  

When we fit you with a night guard, it will prevent you from damaging your teeth by grinding them at night, in addition to having the bite adjusted so that it is even when the appliance is in place. This prevents further damage to the teeth and jaw structures. This is also a major advantage of custom orthodontic night guards over a less expensive over-the-counter option.

A custom-fitted night guard provides the following benefits:

  • Relief from some types of TMJ pain
  • Increased comfort compared to cheaper OTC versions
  • Less likely to fall out while sleeping
  • Constructed from better materials than OTC versions, meaning they are more durable and long-lasting

Getting Fitted for a Night Guard

Custom night guards from your orthodontist or dentist are painless and non-invasive. Your dental professional will make a mold of your teeth and have the appliance fabricated in a laboratory from durable acrylic. Our night guards are custom fitted to ensure that they will fit properly and last for a long time if used properly. All you have to do is wear the night guard while you sleep, and it will protect your teeth and jaw from additional bruxism damage.

Contact Us if You Experience Bruxism or TMJ Symptoms

If you are waking up in the morning with headaches, you might be grinding your teeth at night and/or experiencing TMJ problems. These problems can get worse over time! Contact Melbourne Orthodontics or your general dentist to learn more about how night guards may be able to alleviate your symptoms, or to schedule an appointment with an orthodontist in Melbourne or Indian Harbour Beach, FL.