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After your last dental check-up, your dentist mentioned you might benefit from an occlusal guard. But maybe you’re wondering, do I really need this?

An occlusal night guard is recommended for several reasons, but the most common is bruxism, or teeth grinding. Teeth clenching and grinding can wear on your enamel, cause tight jaw muscles, and create pain in the nerves in your head, face, and neck. So how does a dental night guard protect your teeth while you sleep? Here are five reasons you should consider an occlusal night guard to preserve your smile. 

What is an occlusal guard?

An occlusal night guard is a custom-fabricated dental appliance that fits over your teeth like a mouthguard or retainer. This helps protect your teeth from grinding and coming into contact with each other. A night guard from a dentist can prevent tooth cracks, gum recession, tooth movement, and tooth wear. While an occlusal guard doesn’t completely prevent teeth grinding, the 2-4 millimeter tooth separation the guard provides means your jaw muscles cannot fully engage, so there’s less urge to clench. 

The single continuous piece of medical-grade plastic acts as a splint, holding all teeth together in their proper position. An occlusal guard evenly distributes force placed by teeth grinding so no single tooth or region will bear the full force. 

Five reasons a custom occlusal guard will protect your teeth


1. Occlusal guards keep your TMJ safe.

You’ve probably heard someone complain about their TMJ before. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) acts like a sliding hinge and connects your jawbone to your skull. You have one joint on each side of your jaw. If you suffer from a TMJ disorder, also known as temporomandibular disorder (TMD), you may experience jaw pain, difficulty chewing, and lockjaw.

In an ideal world, your teeth are meant to slide over each other and not lock together. When you grind your teeth, your jaw muscles tighten and cause tension in your TMJ. A custom occlusal guard allows your jaw some slip and cushion, preventing internal joint damage or worsening of TMD. 

2. Occlusal guards stave off headaches.

When your jaw muscles clench, they not only affect your TMJ but also trigger nerves in your neck, head, and face. Some patients find that this can cause headaches and, in severe cases, migraines. With your custom occlusal guard, the jaw can’t tighten enough to prompt that nerve response. 

3. Occlusal guards prevent chipping or breaking teeth.

Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, but once it is damaged, it cannot be brought back. If you consistently grind your teeth together, the hard material of one tooth will wear down the enamel of the tooth it is scraping against. Think about what happens to the hard food you chew — it breaks down.

The same thing occurs to your teeth under the pressure of your jaw muscles. Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can wear away at your enamel and even break your restorative dental work like fillings and crowns. When you begin treatment with an occlusal guard, your teeth can no longer grate against each other. The pressure from your jaw is absorbed by your new appliance rather than taken out on your teeth. 

4. Custom occlusal guards prevent changes to your bite.

A custom occlusal guard is fitted precisely to your teeth and bite because its aim is to protect the surfaces from grinding against each other. If you are trying to protect your teeth with something like a sports mouthguard, it will cause your bite to shift over time. Thick or ill fitting night guards are not designed to fit your bite. The softer material will cause you to chew while sleeping as the brain interprets it to be food. This may cause muscle discomfort and will prematurely wear through the material. 

5. Occlusal guards improve sleep.

Nightguards are specifically designed to be very easy to breathe in. After all, they are frequently used as part of the treatment for sleep apnea. The design of a custom occlusal guard keeps your airway open, thanks to how they separate the upper and lower jaws from each other. This results in better breathing at night.

An over-the-counter night guard can sometimes interfere with your breathing and slip out of place, making it difficult to sleep. A custom night guard is made of high-quality material and fits perfectly to your mouth, ensuring no slips and complete tooth protection.

Connect with a Clemson dentist for a custom occlusal guard

Bruxism and TMD can leave you feeling fatigued, uncomfortable, and in pain. An occlusal night guard is a great solution to maintain your dental health and protect your teeth while you sleep.

While over-the-counter occlusal guards are somewhat effective, they do not provide the same durability, comfort and protection as a custom-designed mouthguard created by your Clemson, SC, dentist. At Carolina Oaks Dental Care of Clemson, our priority is preserving your smile. Schedule an appointment with an expert dentist if you are interested in getting a custom occlusal guard.

Author Dr. Netzler

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