What is a Night Guard and Do I Need One?

Have you ever woken up with a nagging headache? Do you feel that your teeth or jaw are sore when you wake up in the morning? Maybe you aren’t even aware that you grind or clench your teeth? We recently received a text from a friend. She’s been waking up with a stiff and painful jaw in the middle of the night, and thinks she may be clenching her teeth while she sleeps. She said the discomfort has been more noticeable in the last few months. No wonder: she’s currently in her final year of graduate school, finishing exams, seeing clinical patients, and under a significant amount of stress! Our first recommendation was to have a dental evaluation for a night guard.

Things we notice

Many people in our population are at risk for symptoms related to night-time tooth and jaw habits, like clenching or grinding, which is also called bruxism. Stress can exacerbate these habits, and many of us living in the modern-day world can relate to the need to reduce stress! Recently more and more patients have come to visit us, reporting that they think they grind their teeth.

After we do a thorough exam, we find some of the signs: cracks on teeth, muscle soreness and fatigue, and shiny areas of wear on their enamel, the hardest substance in the body, where the teeth have been abrading against each other all night! Sometimes we see flattened canines and molars (the cusped teeth that are used for efficiently chewing your favorite foods), or chipped front teeth (the aesthetic part of your smile). As a preventative measure for pain and more tooth destruction, we often recommend a custom night guard to protect the teeth and jaws from more night-time damage.

Night guard Types

Some patients ask about over-the-counter night guards that are available for either grinding or playing sports. In some cases, if the shape and fit is not calibrated to your individual teeth and jaw, an over-the-counter night guard can increase the grinding, clenching, and pain. A well-fitting night guard can help you sleep more comfortably at night, help prevent long-term muscle and jaw issues, and is a helpful step in preventing cracked, painful teeth. At our office, we perform a thorough exam to evaluate your symptoms. If you’re a candidate for a night guard, we take a mold of your teeth, and our laboratory makes a custom-fit night guard for your mouth. Upon delivery of your new appliance, our doctors carefully fine-tune your bite to make sure everything is balanced and fits properly. If you have any questions or think you may need a night guard, please be sure to call us at 520-836-9685 to make an appointment soon!