What You Should Know About Using a Night Guard
- April 15, 2023
- 6 mins read
If you wonder what those transparent or sometimes bright-colored protective devices contact sport athletes wear in their mouths are, they are called mouthguards and were first designed in 1892 by British dentist Woolf Krause. For rugby players, boxers, and other contact sports athletes, mouthguards help prevent injuries to their teeth and gums.
Another protective dental device called a night guard, later on, evolved for the purpose of easing involuntary teeth grinding or bruxism during sleeping. This condition affects 10% of American adults according to the American Sleep Association. Read The 411 on Bruxism for more information about this condition.
Over the years, night guards have helped millions of people with the extensive damage to the teeth and jaw that bruxism may cause.
Reasons to wear a night guard
While night guards primarily treat bruxism, they can also help in treating other dental conditions.
- To offset the effect of sleeping bruxism
This is the major reason for wearing a night guard as nighttime teeth grinding can wear enamel or cause cracks and chips on the teeth, which may eventually lead to tooth decay. Aside from these, nocturnal bruxism causes tongue indentations as well as jaw lock.
Made from either soft, dual laminate or hard acrylic materials, night guards serve as a barrier or a cushion between the upper and lower teeth when worn.
- To relieve sleep apnea
In sleep apnea, a person’s air passage partially or completely collapses while sleeping. This causes choking, gasping, and snoring sounds as the breath stops. Common treatments for this condition include continuous positive airway pressure machines, breathing assistance devices, and surgery. While night guards are not the best treatment option, they can relieve sleep apnea by moving the lower jaw forward, opening up the airway.
- To prevent TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders
People with severe sleeping bruxism puts a lot of force on TMJ, a joint that connects the jawbone to the skull. As a result, they suffer from TMJ disorder and misaligned teeth. A properly fitted night guard helps properly align the jaw and teeth to alleviate jaw tension and other TMJ symptoms like pain and headaches.
- To combat plaque development
During the night, plaque develops on the teeth as a result of food particles and bacteria coming into contact with the teeth. Wearing a night guard traps bacteria on the surface of the gum because the device prevents saliva from reaching the gums.
Since some night guards come with holes to allow saliva to flow, it is important to seek an oral hygiene professional if you wish to use the device for preventing teeth damage. Moreover, it is also important to remember that regular brushing and flossing of teeth are still the primary ways to prevent plaque formation.
How to choose the right night guard
Night guards come in various types. Whether you choose an over-the-counter night guard or a custom-made one by your dentist, it is important to choose the right one to fit your purpose. Below are some tips on how to choose the right night guard.
- Know your teeth condition
If you are using a night guard to treat severe teeth grinding or clenching, hard night guards are recommended. On the other hand, night guards made from soft materials are more suitable for mild bruxism.
- Take comfort factor into account
Some night guards are more comfortable than others and thus can be worn for a long time. Especially for those with sensitive teeth, a custom-made night guard is recommended because it can provide comfort and can fit well in the mouth.
- Choose BPA-free
BPA is a chemical compound that is commonly used in different types of plastics. Due to its link to heart problems, hypertension, hormonal disruption, and fertility issues, it is therefore recommended to pick a night guard which does not contain this compound. Most of the time, it should be indicated in the packaging of the product.
How to take care of your night guard
To be able to use your night guard for the longest time possible, proper caring must be done. Here are some steps to keep your night guard in top shape:
- Rinse immediately with cold water after wearing to remove debris and loosen plaque stuck in the night guard.
- Use a toothbrush and dish soap to clean it. Don’t apply toothpaste due to its abrasive nature which may leave scratches on your night guard.
- Air dry on a clean surface. It is important to make sure your night guard is completely dry before storing it. Also, don’t expose it to extreme heat as its shape could distort.
- Store your night guard in a sturdy case that is well-ventilated. It’s better to place it in your bedroom or any dry place. Keeping it in the bathroom may warp your night guard because of steam and humidity.
- During your routine dental check-ups, bring your night guard so the dentist can examine it for signs of wear.
Side effects of using a night guard
- Minor discomfort
When you just started wearing a night guard, you may experience minor pain and discomfort as it takes time to get used to it. If discomfort persists or it becomes painful, go back to your dentist for fit reevaluation.
- Pain and soreness caused by poor fit
Night guards bought over the counter will not always have a good fit, thus causing pain and soreness sometimes. To address this, shift immediately to a custom-made one. If you are already wearing a custom-made night guard, ask your dentist for another impression. Having the right fit helps avoids bigger problems like jaw misalignment or shifting teeth.
- Shifting teeth
Improperly fit night guard worn for a long time may cause shifting teeth and worsen TMJ. If you’ve worn braces before, the pain and soreness associated with shifting teeth might be familiar to you.
If you suspect that your night guard is altering your teeth, seek your dentist to know if you need a different type of night guard or need a new one with a better fit.