Night guards are recommended for patients with grinding and clenching issues and also often to treat temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) pain. Nightguards should be custom made with hard acrylic in order to be of therapeutic benefit.
The benefit of a properly made night guard is four-fold:
- They separate the teeth, and in doing so, prevent wear damage on the chewing surface and abfraction damage on the teeth. Abfraction is flexing of the teeth by clenching, which causes wedges of tooth structure to break out at the neck of the tooth, causing notching.
- When the wearer clenches or bites on the guard, pressure is placed on the incisors which acts as a shut-off switch to the muscles of mastication that are the source of the grinding and clenching.
- They prevent over closing of the joint which can cause damage to the condyle of the TMJ.
- They protect the porcelain of crowns and tooth structure from damaging grinding and clenching that occurs during sleep.
Do not use store bought boil and bite guards! While they will separate the teeth, they are soft and chewy. This bouncy material will not shut off the clenching, but will worsen it, causing sore jaw muscles. People who wear them at night often complain of joint pain, muscle pain, and bulkiness.
Sports guards are worn as required equipment in contact sports such as boxing, hockey and football. They are made of a soft material that is spongy and shock absorbent so that the teeth and jaws are protected from inadvertent fractures due to the blows to the face and head that are common to those sports.
The boil and bite variety are the most common, and are for the most part, adequate. However, we recommend custom made sports guards from the dentist that are personalized, with custom colors and densities that can be made less bulky.