An occlusal guard, also known as a mouth or dental night guard, is a custom fitted appliance worn either on your upper or lower arch. Most patients are familiar with a sports guard. Although it is also meant to protect your teeth, it is very different from an occlusal guard appliance. A night guard is worn to protect your teeth from bruxism (grinding) and/or clenching at night. Grinding is the motion of moving your teeth and jaw back and forth, while clenching is when you are biting down with excessive pressure.
A dental night guard may be needed if you ever wake up to tenderness, soreness, headaches, and or pain in your jaw, or head/neck region. You may also need one if you catch yourself during the day clenching down, which may indicate that you grind and/or clench in the evening. However, sometimes these signs and symptoms are not readily apparent because you may be doing it at night periodically. Your dentist will be able determine if you have any wear facets, breakage or damage on your teeth from bruxism.
A night guard is essential in protecting your teeth from excessive loads. As you consistently pound on your teeth, small microcracks can occur leading to cavities, fractures, and wearing down of your teeth. As you know, once your teeth are gone, they do not grow back and it is crucial that you protect them to maintain full function. A night guard is a great preventative and protective measure for your teeth.
A night guard works by creating space for your muscles to relax and your jaw to separate, so your teeth do not damage each other. It also helps program your jaw muscles to limit the pressure from the grinding and clenching.
If you are involved in any type of sport, it may be beneficial for you to consider a sports guard. Sports guards are custom made to your teeth and is thicker than a dental night guard appliance. It is a great way to prevent any dental injury and keep your teeth safe and protected for both you and your children!