Night guards, or occlusal guards as they are called, are made to protect more than your teeth. Your teeth are a part of a very complex system that is designed for mashing food, and the components of this system will break down over time. There are many reasons that your dentist might consider an occlusal guard as a treatment option for you. Here are some of the problems we are trying to alleviate with this therapy:
1) Tooth Wear: The aspect that is usually most obvious to the patient is the attrition seen on tooth surfaces. While enamel is very hard, it can still wear down. Grinding through the enamel is very common and can lead to great sensitivity and an increased cavity risk.
2) Tooth Fractures: When you’re squeezing or grinding two immovable objects together, something’s got to give… Like bones, teeth can break, especially ones that have required fillings in the past. These devastating fractures most often start as small cracks in the tooth surface. The night guard will spread the forces of clenching and grinding across the entire arch of teeth, helping to lighten the load on teeth that are susceptible to fracture.
3) TMJ problems: Think of your lower jaw as a tripod. The back “legs” sit on two joints (the TM joints in front of your ears) and the front “leg” is the place where your upper and lower teeth come together. When all of the muscles, ligaments, tendons and cartilage that make up the TM joint are off-kilter it causes clicking and popping when you open and close. This can become painful. A nightguard is designed to put your upper and lower jaws into such a position to allow for the muscles to relax. Sometimes this therapy is designed to “reprogram” your muscles to allow your jaw positioning to be as close to ideal as possible, which will in many cases reduce problems with the joint and can cut down on the reflexive nature of clenching and grinding.
4) Headaches and Tender teeth: The muscles that allow you to chew are also responsible for clenching and grinding. If they are contracting hard enough to clench, they can become sore, just like if you overdid it at the gym. Your teeth and jaws can feel tender as well, often because of the nerve endings that are found in the ligaments that hold your teeth in the jawbone. As mentioned before, setting a more proper upper and lower jaw relationship with certain occlusal guard appliances will often reduce or stop the clenching.
If you are experiencing headaches, tooth aches or muscle pain it could mean that you need to consider an occlusal guard. Come into our office for an evaluation today!
CrossKeys Dental is located at 110 CrossKeys Office Park in Fairport. Dr. DuPre՛ and Dr. Badali provide comprehensive family dentistry and are always welcoming new patients. Visit us at www.CrossKeysDentalFairport.com for more information.
© 2017 CrossKeys Dental in Fairport, NY by Vince Badali, DDS