In the last few decades, much attention in dentistry has been devoted to both the airway/sleep apnea and parafunctional habits such a clenching and grinding of the teeth. These two topics are, in fact, inter related. Many people can grind or clench their teeth at night due to stress, but there are also many people who may develop these habits due to a narrow airway and sleep apnea.
Whatever the cause, I think we can all agree that tooth grinding and clenching is not great for your teeth and is also something that can lead to uncomfortable symptoms. This is why every single patient in our office gets asked questions pertaining to oral habits such as this as well as a thorough oral examination to determine if there is evidence of clenching or grinding on the teeth. If this is found to be the case, our dentists will recommend a dental night guard. Many patients wonder what this actually is, and if a night guard is truly something that they need. Today we will answer 7 of the most common questions regarding the dental night guard, and we will start with how a night guard actually aims to prevent clenching and grinding.
How Does A Night Guard Work? Does It Prevent Clenching And Grinding?
A night guard is a custom fabricated piece of acrylic that fits over your teeth similar to how a retainer does. By covering the teeth, this acrylic acts to protect your teeth from hitting and coming into contact with each other, which in turn can prevent tooth wear, cracks, gum recession, and tooth movement. While the dental night guard does not fully prevent clenching and grinding, the 2-4 millimeter tooth separation provided by night guard means that the jaw muscles can not be fully engaged so many people often have less of an urge (conscious or not) to clench or grind. As it is one continuous piece of acrylic, the night guard also acts as a form of splint, holding all teeth together in their correct position, it evenly distributes any force placed by clenching or grinding so no single tooth or area will carry the full force.
Is A Night Guard Comfortable?
While at first a night guard can take some adjustment, after just a few weeks most patients will be completely adjusted to their new appliance. Many patients will even reach the point that they begin to feel uncomfortable and not sleep well without the night guard in place.
Can I Choke On A Night Guard?
Choking can be a realistic concern for young children, this is why grinding in children is typically not treated with a night guard. As a general statement, a night guard is much too large to be a true choking hazard. If the night guard does get dislodged during sleeping, it is easy to locate and remove from the mouth therefore choking on the appliance would not be a likely occurrence. If you do have any health concerns, especially motor or swallowing concerns, be sure to talk with your dentist prior to wearing a night guard.
How Long Will A Night Guard Last?
Like most things, the longevity of a night guard truly depends on the amount of wear placed on it. In patients that grind very heavily, the night guard may only last a year or two. In some patients that do not place as much force on their teeth, a dental night guard can last over 10 years. In those that wear heavily on their night guard and see the amount of force placed upon it in such a short period of time, they are happy to replace the night guard at regular intervals to prevent their teeth from being subjected to that force.
Can A Night Guard Shift My Teeth?
Generally, a well fitted night guard will not shift or move your teeth. The night guard itself is fabricated off the precise positioning of your teeth and thus cover the teeth fully in their natural position. Upon delivery of the night guard, care should be taken to ensure that the occlusion, the way the teeth bite together, is even and accurate and this will also help to ensure that no tooth shifting occurs.
Should A Night Guard Be Worn On The Upper Or Lower Teeth?
A dental night guard has proven to be effective when fabricated and worn on either the top or bottom teeth. Often the decision is made based on the preference of the dentist and patient. More important than which dental arch the night guard is made on, is the fact that all teeth in that arch must be covered with the appliance. This means that a night guard is not effective if only some of the teeth are covered and some are not.
Does Insurance Cover The Cost Of A Night Guard?
Many insurances do cover the fabrication of a dental night guard, especially when photos and documentation can prove that there is a need for it. However, this is not always a covered benefit, especially if the insurance has limited coverage.
If you feel that the time is right to try out a night guard for yourself, discuss any concerns or questions you have with your dentist, and get started today! If you are a grinder or clencher, the sooner you start protecting your teeth, the less likely you are to incur much more complex and costly dental treatment needs! Do you live in the Mission Viejo or Orange County area? The doctors at Sunshine Smiles Of Orange County would be more than happy to get you started, give us a call at 949-951-0951!
Dr. Arshia Kalantari has been a practicing general dentist for over 8 years and grows to love his profession more and more every single day. Since finishing dental school, Dr. Kalantari continually chooses to advance his education and takes specialty seminars and courses to become well practiced and knowledgeable in the fields of Sleep Apnea, Invisalign, Root Canal Treatment, and Cosmetics. Dr. Kalantari views his patients as an extension of his family and appreciates the bond he is able to form, always up for a chit chat or to lend a listening ear.