Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What the Heck Are Night Guards?

We always get asked a lot of questions about night guards and what they are for? Simply, they are intended to stop or minimize all the pressure exerted by many of your facial muscles from grinding and clenching. The muscles, called the muscles of mastication, can exert an enormous amount of force. This force, is intended to only be used when chewing. However, in "grinders" or "clenchers", this force is applied for extended periods of time, usually while asleep. This extended amount of wear and tear on teeth and the surrounding bone can be extraordinarily damaging, painful and frustrating. Your dentist may see signs of excessive wear on your teeth at your exam- possibly a worn area on the cusp, fracture lines, temperature sensitivity, bone loss or flattening of your front teeth. In my opinion, it is much more common than people realize, especially with high levels of stress, certain medications and our busy lives. I think its one of the most cost effective ways to prevent needing significant dental work throughout life. For instance, a night guard may prevent a cusp from breaking or fracturing if implemented early, saving the cost of a potential crown. They are surprisingly comfortable after a short "getting to know you" period. Many patients can't sleep without them after a few weeks. It's important to know that the night or occlusal guard must be carefully fit to your bite, to balance the forces appropriately. Over the counter options are also available and may provide some benefit but are generally less comfortable and less durable. Please feel free to post any questions you may have. I have placed a couple photos of night guards above. These are some of the variety of types used. Thanks for visiting!

-Dr Doug

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