Is a Custom Occlusal Guard (a.k.a. “Nightguard”) Right for You?

Woman in Jaw PainIf you suffer from clenching or grinding of your teeth, you may need a custom occlusal guard to protect your pearly whites. Bruxism (teeth grinding) is a common condition, affecting 10% of adults and 15% of children, according to the American Sleep Association. How do you know if you grind your teeth?

4 telltale signs...

  • Your spouse hears your teeth squeaking or grinding.
  • Your canine teeth are completely flat, or even "notched out," instead of having their original pointed tip.
  • You frequently wake up with jaw muscle soreness or headaches.
  • You suffer from tooth sensitivity.

Without treatment, teeth clenching or grinding can cause more advanced complications including TMJ pain, fractured teeth, bone loss, receding gums, or tooth sensitivity.

At Imagine Dentistry, we offer Custom Fit Occlusal Guards, or Nightguards, that reduce the likelihood of further damage to your teeth. They work by absorbing and dispersing the biting pressure, which protects your tooth enamel and relieves jaw muscle tension.

Custom Nightguards are more costly than a mouth guard you could buy at your local pharmacy, but for good reason. They are far superior to what you can get over-the-counter for three primary reasons:

1. Custom occlusal guards are far more durable.
Over-the-counter Nightguards are made from flexible plastic. Constant chewing, biting, and clenching will wear this material down and also fatigue the muscles in your face. Custom guards, on the other hand, are made with a lab-fabricated, acrylic material that is able to withstand even the most severe teeth grinding! A custom guard will likely last several years before needing a replacement, and can be adjusted to relax your muscles.

2. CUSTOM OCCLUSAL GUARDS ARE Custom-fit to your teeth and adjustable. 

Custom guards are made by taking an impression of your teeth to create a model that is an exact replica of your teeth. As you grind and clench throughout the night, a guard that isn't custom fitted could easily come out. A custom Nightguard is created to stay in your mouth all night, no matter how intensely you grind.

Not only are custom guards fitted just for your teeth they are also adjustable. If fitted properly, your custom Nightguard can relieve muscle tension in your face when you're sleeping. A one-size-fits-all solution is not likely to have the same positive effects. For example, if you're a teeth clencher, your jaw movements are similar to what they are when you're chewing gum or eating a meal. Therefore, simply keeping your teeth apart will not help with muscle tension.

3. Custom occlusal guards will keep your teeth aligned in place of a retainer.

If you've had clear or traditional braces, you likely have been given a clear retainer to keep your teeth aligned after you've completed orthodontic care. While these clear retainers work extremely well for their intended purpose to keep your teeth straight they may not be sufficient to protect your teeth and jaw from the effects of bruxism. If your retainer has cracks or holes in it, that's a strong indicator that you're grinding and should use a custom-fit Nightguard instead.

To reduce muscle tension in your mouth, you want to have equal pressure on all of your teeth as you bite down. Retainers don't take this into account, as they are the same thickness of plastic over each tooth. This design could increase muscle tension since bite forces would be unevenly distributed on the plastic. Custom Nightguards, on the other hand, are adjusted to match the way your jaw hinges shut, so the pressure is equally spread around.

Dr. Coambs is passionate about helping patients with TMJ pain and other problems associated with their teeth. In fact, she has advanced training from The Dawson Academy in assessing and treating issues related to the jaw joints. To learn more about how a custom occlusal guard could help you, contact us for a consultation!