The Benefits of A Nightguard

Author: Dr. Alison Vitelli, DMD

We often get asked what an occlusal guard or “nightguard” is, what is it used for and who may benefit from it. A nightguard is a very simple U-shaped appliance that goes in between your top and bottom teeth. It is meant to provide protection against trauma caused by clenching or grinding of the teeth. These conditions are referred to as parafunctional habits, and not only the teeth, but the muscles involved in chewing are affected too.  

Some of the signs and symptoms associated with parafunctional habits we see in the teeth are wear at the neck and/or chewing surface of the tooth, fractures of fillings or tooth structures, acute sensitivity, and tenderness or pain upon chewing. The chewing movement of the jaw is a very well orchestrated movement of several muscles. The forces created by clenching or grinding the teeth can be very high, often leading to muscular spams showed in limited opening of the jaw, headaches and pain during normal jaw movements. 

Wearing a nightguard will create a physical barrier between upper and lower teeth, this helps to decrease the wear and fracturing on the teeth. This also decreases stress in the muscles by erasing the memory in the muscle fibers, thus protecting and decreasing the probability for spams and pain during function. 

Now, you can find several options for nightguards available over-the-counter in the dental aisles of most stores.  These are a generic and inexpensive option that you mold yourself at home. Because these are not as stable, I usually recommend these if you want to see if you would tolerate an appliance in your mouth during the night.  At Spring Lake Dental Group, we have the ability to create a custom made nightguard just for you. I recommend this option. We do this by taking an accurate impression of your teeth, which makes it more stable and easier to wear throughout the night. Please do not hesitate to share with us if you think you suffer from any of these symptoms and if you are interested in a nightguard.