When is a Night Guard Needed?

A night guard is an orthodontic appliance that is sometimes referred to as an occlusal splint. If a person is grinding their teeth at night, clenching their jaws, or waking up with headaches or jaw pain, a night guard might be the answer for alleviating these problems and reducing the painful symptoms. It can also prevent bruxism (nighttime teeth grinding) until a child outgrows the practice. Your Melbourne orthodontist at Melbourne Orthodontics can build a custom night guard for you if needed.

Bruxism Explained

Bruxism or nighttime teeth grinding can be serious if the symptoms are not alleviated. It’s most common in children, although adults who experience a lot of stress in their lives can clench their jaws or grind their teeth as well. Many people don’t realize that they grind their teeth at night until their orthodontist or another dental professional notices damage to the teeth.

Teeth grinding can chip the enamel (outer shell) on the teeth and eventually damages their structure. Once a tooth is breached like this, it is vulnerable to tooth decay, sensitivity to hot and cold, and other problems. Bruxism can eventually lead to headaches, sleep disruption, and pain in the facial or jaw structures.

Aside from youth, here are some other factors that could contribute to a person developing bruxism:

  • Frequently feeling angry, frustrated or “stressed out”
  • People who are competitive or hyperactive
  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol use
  • Caffeine use
  • Certain prescription medications
  • Certain health conditions like sleep apnea, epilepsy, or AD/HD

TMJ and Night Guards

Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, is a condition in which the jaw becomes misaligned. It can sometimes be caused by an injury, but bruxism can also lead to TMJ. People with TMJ can experience pain in the face, jaw, shoulders, or neck. It can also lead to difficulty chewing, a popping sound when opening or closing the mouth, difficulty chewing, and an uncomfortable bite. TMJ is often a major quality of life issue for people who suffer from it.

A night guard is an affordable and non-invasive treatment option for some patients with TMJ. When a custom night guard is properly fitted, it can help shift the patient’s teeth into the proper alignment over time. This in turn can alleviate some of the more severe symptoms of TMJ, like headaches and pain.

Custom Fitted Night Guard

Your orthodontist in Melbourne will make a custom impression of your teeth in an easy, painless appointment. That impression is used to make a mold, which a laboratory will then use to fashion a night guard from a layer of hard plastic. In a follow-up appointment, the doctor will ensure that the new night guard fits the teeth properly. From that point on, the patient can wear their night guard when they sleep in order to prevent bruxism or reduce the symptoms of TMJ (or both). Our staff will also explain how to properly care for a night guard to you.

Why It’s Important to Have a Custom Night Guard

There are cheap night guards that are available over-the-counter and online from a number of sources. There are a couple of issues with these, however. They tend to be “one size fits all” appliances, and therefore will not be a perfect fit for most people. They won’t shift the teeth like a custom orthodontic night guard will, and they’re more likely to pop out of the mouth when sleeping. A custom night guard will fit so well that it won’t pop out, and it will do the job of protecting the teeth properly.

Contact Melbourne Orthodontics

If teeth grinding is causing you problems, or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of TMJ, it’s probably time to Contact Us for an appointment. A night guard may or may not be the only treatment that we recommend, based on an exam and diagnosis.