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What Are Night Guards?

Understanding Their Role in Dental Health


Night guards are a dental appliance frequently recommended for individuals who grind their teeth at night, a condition known as bruxism. They play a crucial role in protecting teeth and improving oral health. This article will explore what night guards are, their benefits, the types available, and how they contribute to maintaining dental well-being.

Understanding Night Guards

Night guards are custom-made devices worn over the teeth, typically during sleep, to prevent direct contact between the upper and lower teeth. Made from durable plastic material, they are designed to absorb and disperse the forces exerted during teeth grinding or clenching.

Edgewater Dental's Complete Guide To NightGuards

The Need for Night Guards: A Closer Examination

Night guards play a critical role in dental health, especially for those who experience nocturnal bruxism or have TMJ disorders. Understanding why they are necessary can help in making informed decisions about oral health care. Here’s an in-depth look at the need for night guards:

Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

  • Unconscious Habit: Bruxism, the medical term for teeth grinding and clenching, often occurs unconsciously during sleep. Many individuals are unaware of their grinding habits until symptoms become apparent or are pointed out by a dental professional.
  • Consequences of Bruxism: Persistent grinding can lead to tooth wear and fractures. Over time, this habit can wear down the tooth enamel, expose deeper layers of the tooth, increase tooth sensitivity, and even lead to fractures or chips in the teeth.
  • Pain and Discomfort: Aside from tooth damage, bruxism can also cause jaw pain, headaches, and muscle soreness, impacting the quality of life.

TMJ Disorders

  • Jaw Joint Stress: Night guards are beneficial for individuals suffering from TMJ disorders, a set of conditions affecting the temporomandibular joint (the hinge connecting the jaw to the skull). These disorders can cause pain and compromised movement of the jaw joint and the surrounding muscles.
  • Symptom Relief: By using a night guard, patients can alleviate the pressure on the jaw, reduce jaw clenching, and consequently lessen the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders.

Preventing Dental Damage

  • Barrier Against Grinding: Night guards act as a physical barrier between the upper and lower teeth. When grinding or clenching occurs, the guard helps distribute the pressure evenly, which minimizes damage to the teeth.
  • Protecting Enamel: Continuous grinding can lead to enamel erosion, which is irreversible. By protecting the enamel, night guards help maintain the tooth’s integrity and prevent conditions like tooth hypersensitivity.
  • Long-Term Dental Health: Regular use of a night guard can prevent the long-term consequences of bruxism, including severe tooth damage that might require extensive dental treatments like crowns, bridges, or implants.

Benefits of Wearing Night Guards: An In-Depth Perspective

Night guards, an essential tool in dental care, offer numerous benefits for individuals suffering from teeth grinding (bruxism) and TMJ disorders. Let’s explore these benefits in more detail:

1. Protects Teeth from Grinding and Clenching

  • Enamel Preservation: Night guards act as a protective barrier between the upper and lower teeth. This barrier helps prevent the wear and tear on the enamel caused by grinding, which can lead to serious dental issues.
  • Preventing Chips and Fractures: Teeth grinding often results in chips or fractures in the teeth. A night guard absorbs and distributes the force exerted during grinding, thereby protecting the teeth from such damage.

2. Reduces Jaw Strain and Pain

  • Cushioning Effect: Night guards provide a cushioning effect for the jaw muscles and joints. By reducing the intensity of the bite force during clenching or grinding, they help in alleviating the strain on the jaw.
  • Alleviating TMJ Symptoms: For those with TMJ disorders, a night guard minimizes the stress on the jaw joints and muscles, thus reducing symptoms like pain, discomfort, and clicking sounds during jaw movement.

3. Improves Sleep Patterns

  • Reducing Bruxism Impact: By preventing teeth grinding, night guards can significantly improve sleep quality. The discomfort and noise of grinding can disrupt sleep patterns, both for the individual and their sleeping partner.
  • Promoting Relaxation: Wearing a night guard can promote better jaw positioning, which may lead to more relaxed and comfortable sleep, thereby improving overall sleep quality.

4. Prevents Long-Term Dental Damage

  • Avoiding Severe Tooth Damage: Continuous grinding over time can lead to serious dental problems, such as deep cracks or fractures in the teeth, and can even loosen teeth. Night guards play a crucial role in preventing these severe consequences.
  • Cost-Effective Prevention: Using a night guard is a cost-effective preventive measure. It helps avoid the need for more extensive dental treatments in the future, such as crowns, bridges, or implants, which might be required to repair severely damaged teeth.

5. Additional Oral Health Benefits

  • Helps with Snoring: In some cases, night guards can help reduce or prevent snoring by keeping the jaw in a position that promotes better air flow during sleep.
  • Maintaining Dental Alignment: For those who have had orthodontic treatment, night guards can assist in maintaining the alignment of teeth by preventing the shifting that might be caused by grinding.

Types of Night Guards

  • Over-the-Counter (OTC) Night Guards: These are widely available and come in a “one-size-fits-all” or “boil-and-bite” format, where the guard is softened in hot water and then molded to the teeth. While they are a more affordable option, they often provide a less precise fit.
  • Custom-Made Night Guards: Dental professionals can provide custom-made night guards tailored to the individual’s mouth. These are created using dental impressions to ensure a comfortable and effective fit. Although more expensive, they offer better protection and are generally more durable and comfortable.

How to Get a Night Guard

  • Consultation: If you suspect you are grinding your teeth or have been diagnosed with bruxism, consult with a dentist. They can assess your specific needs and recommend the best type of night guard.
  • Fitting for a Custom Guard: For a custom-made guard, the dentist will take impressions of your teeth, which are sent to a dental lab where your night guard is made.
  • Follow-Up Care: Your dentist will ensure your night guard fits correctly and provide instructions on how to care for it.

Caring for Your Night Guard

  • Cleaning: Regular cleaning is crucial to prevent bacteria buildup. Clean your night guard with a toothbrush and toothpaste or mild soap and water.
  • Storage: Keep it in a ventilated case when not in use to prevent damage and maintain its shape.
  • Regular Checks: Have your night guard checked by your dentist during routine dental visits for any wear or fit issues.


Night guards are a simple yet effective solution for protecting your teeth from the damaging effects of bruxism. Whether you opt for an OTC option or a custom-made device, using a night guard can significantly improve your oral health, prevent costly dental repairs, and contribute to a more comfortable sleep experience.

Consult your dentist to determine if a night guard is suitable for you and to get a custom-fitted appliance if necessary.