Do You or Your Child Need a Night Guard?

As your orthodontist in Melbourne, we know that for some people, a retainer is not the best removable appliance to wear at night. An occlusal splint, also called a night guard, cannot only hold the teeth in position but it also has some additional benefits. It is custom fitted to the patient’s teeth like a retainer, but there is a layer of plastic between the teeth (preferably hard plastic). This layer is usually adjusted so that all of the teeth are touching evenly. If someone has the tendency to grind their teeth at night, this layer can prevent tooth wear even if grinding continues. If the patient does not have an optimal bite to begin with, the artificial bite created with the splint can sometimes be helpful in reducing jaw joint (TMJ) symptoms. These symptoms are usually related to the frequency and intensity of the grinding, both of which have been found to be reduced with a well-adjusted night guard.

This is an appliance typically worn while sleeping through the night, and a custom appliance can be made by your general dentist or orthodontist.  Basic mouthguards can be purchased at many pharmacies and superstores, but they have some drawbacks.  First, they are usually made of softer plastics. Although they can still protect the enamel from wear, they often promote grinding instead of reducing it, which makes symptoms worse in many people.  The softer plastic also does not hold up well over time and they are not adjusted to have a perfectly even bite.

Regardless of where a night guard is purchased, its main function is to prevent the surfaces of your teeth from grinding together, causing you to chip and crack your teeth and strain your jaw muscles.

If a younger patient without a complete permanent dentition is experiencing these types of problems, a modified version of a night guard can be made that will be more adaptable to erupting teeth and less costly due to the fact that it will not last as long with the changes that the patient’s mouth will undergo.

Wherever you get your dental night guard, it is always worthwhile to ensure a good fit. Generic mouth guards, even those that can be molded to your teeth before wearing, are often thicker and bulkier than custom mouth guards. This additional bulkiness can cause discomfort or difficulty breathing.  Everyone’s mouth is a different shape and size, so trying to use a one-size fits all mouth guard is unlikely to result in a quality fit.

A custom fitting involves creating a mold of your unique jaw and teeth upon which the guard is formed. This allows a perfect fit even with rigid acrylic that could not be remolded with every use. This allows the mouth guard to be thinner and more discrete. In fact, a thin acrylic mouth guard can sometimes even be worn during the day. These thinner mouth guards are not designed, like sports guards are, to protect your teeth from a hit to the mouth, but are to help prevent pain from clenching and grinding, and to protect the enamel from damage. A more comfortable custom fitted dental guard can help you ease the symptoms of bruxism without additional breathing or sleeping difficulties.

With custom dental guards, there is still variation in terms of thickness, material, and intended use.  Your dental professional is the best one to ask about what may be best for you or your child, but hard plastic is almost always preferred over a softer, rubber-like material, regardless of the thickness.

Whatever your orthodontic or bruxism concerns, Melbourne Orthodontics is here to help. Contact us today if you believe you or your child have clenching or grinding related problems and may require a night guard.