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Custom Night Guards: Protection for Teeth, Jaws, and Joints While You Snooze

Getting a good night’s sleep is important for overall health and well-being. However, for many people, issues like teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism) can disrupt slumber and cause worn teeth, jaw pain, and headaches. A custom-fitted night guard made by your dentist is an excellent way to protect teeth and joints while snoozing.

What is tooth grinding and why does it occur? Bruxism involves involuntary clenching, grinding, and jaw muscle tension occurring mostly during sleep but sometimes while awake as well. It’s a paramuscular activity that can stem from factors like stress, genetics, or abnormal bite alignment. Over time, excess force from bruxism can lead to worn enamel, cracked or chipped teeth, and painful temporomandibular joint (TMJ) issues.

Symptoms of bruxism include wearing down of tooth surfaces, tight or sore jaw muscles upon waking, ringed indentations from tooth grinding on either side of the tongue, and headaches. A dentist can easily diagnose it during exams by noting signs of excessive wear. Nighttime observation or a grinding device test may also be used in some cases.

How can a night guard help? A custom-fitted night guard is a thin, contoured mouthguard made of a durable resin material to fit the teeth like a second set of retainers. Designed based on molds of your teeth, it evenly distributes forces from grinding or clenching across a larger surface area to significantly reduce damage to teeth and jaw joints.

Night guards come in both hard and soft flexibility options. While soft guards are more comfortable and easier to talk in, hard guards offer maximum protection for severe grinding cases. Wearing a guard repositions the jaw in a relaxed posture and prevents teeth from making direct contact during sleep. As a result, risks of fractured, chipped, or cracked teeth are markedly reduced.

The process of making a night guard begins with dental impressions taken of your teeth by your dentist. These are used to create a stone model of your bite. From this, a night guard “shell” that matches your exact dental anatomy is fabricated using durable plastic materials. The guard is gently contoured, trimmed, and polished to ensure comfort and retention.

Wearing a custom-fitted night guard is recommended for life by most dental experts to provide ongoing protection from bruxism effects. While it may take some acclimation initially, most patients report relief from jaw pain and headaches within a few weeks. Regular replacement every 3-5 years is advised as grinding wears down the material over time. Properly fitted guards are easy to talk, breathe, and eat in while providing unmatched dental and joint safeguarding.

For severe grinding cases, a night guard may be supplemented with a daytime biting splint or jaw positioning device to help train muscles to relax. Botulinum (Botox) injections are another option for the relaxation of overactive jaw muscles in conjunction with guard use. Counseling can assist individuals address psychological stress triggers as well.

By protecting delicate dental structures from grind forces, a custom night guard made by your dentist shields teeth and jaw components from premature wear and damage. Safeguarding dental investments and joint comfort makes for deep, restful sleep and improved quality of life. So, if teeth grinding disrupts your zzz’s, a properly fitted nighttime bite guard is worth exploring.

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