Did your last visit to the dental office result in your dentist recommending a very expensive piece of plastic, otherwise known as a night guard or occlusal guard? You might be asking yourself, do I really need a night guard. Believe it or not, when your dentist recommends a dental night guard, it’s not to make a quick buck off of you.
Dentists typically recommend night guards to patients who show signs of bruxism, also known as teeth grinding and clenching. Left untreated, bruxism can lead to painful symptoms and tooth damage. That tooth damage can then lead to expensive and extensive procedures like crowns or root canals.
The severity of your bruxism plays a role in whether you need a night guard or not, as does the root cause of your bruxism. There are varying degrees of bruxism ranging from extreme grinding that can cause extensive damage to your teeth to mild clenching that may result in less severe symptoms like headaches and sore jaws. In this article, we’ll cover how to tell if you actually need a night guard.
How Night Guards Help With Bruxism
Bruxism is the term for teeth grinding and jaw clenching, and a night guard can help mitigate the symptoms of this condition. Left untreated, bruxism can have negative effects on your oral health. For example, when you grind your teeth and clench your jaw repeatedly, you might experience tooth enamel wear, gum recession, jaw pain, tooth pain, or even cracked teeth. Bruxism is also thought to be a cause of temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ disorder).
According to Dr. Stephen J. Minns, DDS, night guards help with these symptoms. He says, “Similar to a mouth guard worn by athletes, this device provides a barrier between your top and bottom teeth while you sleep.” They stop your upper and lower teeth from physically touching each other, and they cushion the force of your jaw as your jaw muscles clench down.
Night guards help protect your teeth from damage in the short term, and they also help keep your mouth healthy for the long term. Dr. Victor R. Siegel, DDS explains, “Left untreated, grinding your teeth can lead to serious oral health complications. When teeth become too worn, there is a higher chance of decay advancing to the point where root canal therapy is necessary. You can also cause serious damage to your jaw, leading to the development of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.”
While it may seem expensive and inconvenient to get a night guard now, it sure beats losing a tooth or needing expensive dental work such as a root canal in the future.
Other Ways to Treat Bruxism
A night guard can help, but it isn’t the only way to treat bruxism and doesn’t necessarily treat the root cause.
Bruxism is also often related to stress and anxiety, and one study found that the higher people perceived their stress, the more intense their bruxism was. This suggests that learning effective coping strategies and stress management techniques could help reduce the severity of bruxism. Additionally, the American Dental Association notes that some dentists recommend muscle relaxants before bed to help calm your overactive jaw muscles.
These alternative bruxism treatments address the root cause, but they don’t protect your teeth and jaw as long as you are still bruxing. While you try to find and address the root cause, a night guard is an effective way to protect your teeth for nighttime teeth grinding.
How to Know if You Actually Need a Night Guard
Your dentist is going to be your main ally here, as he or she can tell you how severe your bruxism is and what side effects you’ll likely experience if you don’t start protecting your teeth.
We always recommend you consult with your dentist. However, it doesn’t hurt to take stock of your symptoms before going in. If you constantly wake up with headaches, jaw and face pain, or toothaches, that’s a pretty clear sign you need to start wearing a night guard to protect your teeth.
Another way to know you need a night guard is if you’ve tried some of the alternative techniques to stop your bruxism and haven’t seen results. This isn’t to say you might not eventually find your root cause and be able to ditch the night guard down the road, but until that time, it’s imperative you protect your teeth.
How to Get a Night Guard
You have a few options when it comes to getting a mouthguard, and you don’t need to order directly through your dentist. Even with dental insurance, this is often the most expensive route to getting a night guard.
The cheapest and quickest way to get a night guard is over the counter. Drugstores like Walgreens and online retailers like Amazon offer one-size-fits-all and boil and bite night guards. If your teeth are severely at risk of cracking, or if you can’t bear the unpleasant symptoms of your bruxism any longer, these over-the-counter night guards will do in a pinch.
Another way to get a night guard that is still cheaper than ordering from your dentist is to order a custom night guard online from a retailer like Pro Teeth Guard. When you go this route, you’ll get an impression kit in the mail and we’ll fabricate your night guard to your exact specifications in a professional dental lab using professional materials and processes. You’ll never have to leave your house, you’ll get a night guard that is designed to perfectly fit your teeth, and you’ll pay considerably less than you would for the same type of night guard from the dentist.
Deciding Whether to Invest in a Night Guard
Now that you know what a night guard does and how important it is to protect your teeth if you have bruxism, you should have a better idea of how it can be part of your bruxism treatment.
If you’re still not sure, give your dentist a call or schedule an appointment so they can talk to you about your specific situation. Not only can your dentist help you determine if you truly need a night guard, but they can also help you determine what type of night guard is going to be best for you.
If you’ve determined that you definitely need a night guard, choose the type you want to get and start the process, whether that means researching what type of over-the-counter night guard you want, placing an online order with a company like Pro Teeth Guard for a custom night guard produced with a high dental technology, or calling your dentist to schedule an appointment.