What is an Occlusal Guard (Night Guard)?
Also known as night guards, occlusal guards are removable dental devices that fit over the teeth. Dentists recommend the device to protect the teeth and prevent deterioration caused by grinding and clenching during the night (the medical term for which is bruxism). Sometimes, tnight guards may be worn during the day if the patient’s condition is more complicated than normal teeth grinding issues.
Overview of an occlusal guard
An occlusal guard is an orthotic device designed specially for patients with teeth grinding issues, bite dysfunction or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. The device is custom-made from materials like vinyl, light-cured composite, soft acrylic or resin created with heat-cured acrylic. Night guards made from heat-cured acrylic for bruxism are the hardest and often the most resilient. Occlusal guards for children are usually made from softer materials because children's teeth and jaw sizes change as they grow.
During a dental appointment, the dentist will recommend an occlusal guard if they notice that the surfaces of teeth appear flatter than usual. Otherwise, patients need to talk to the dental professional if they always wake up with a headache, jaw pain, toothache or feel fatigued. Sometime, grinding or clenching the teeth might even cause pain in the gums and loosen the teeth from their sockets.
How occlusal guards work
The night guard does not treat the issue but functions as a preventative measure against more severe issues and symptoms that may result from excessive teeth grinding. If the symptoms are not addressed on time, more dental problems can occur, which may be as serious as fractured teeth or tooth loss. These more serious issues often cost more to correct in the long run compared to the price of getting an occlusal guard.
The night guard will prevent additional damages to the teeth. It limits the rate of deterioration to teeth surfaces by acting as a barrier or cushion between the upper and lower sets of teeth. The guard relaxes the jaws, ultimately reducing the force from clenching or grinding. This will ultimately protect the jaw joints from potential issues and keep teeth healthy and in good shape.
Getting an occlusal guard
If the dentist recommends getting an occlusal guard, the process may require two dental visits before the final product is available. The dentist will take impressions of the patient’s oral cavity. The mold or impression is then sent to a dental lab that will create a custom-fitted guard for the patient’s teeth.
During the second visit, the dentist will check the fitting of the guard and provide instructions for usage and maintenance. Usually, it takes a few weeks of regular usage for patients to get used to wearing the occlusal guard. After acclimating, most patients sleep easily while wearing a night guard. If the device continues to cause soreness or feels uncomfortable after the acclimation period, the patient may need to return to the dental office for adjustments.
With the occlusal guard, a dentist can mitigate the effects of teeth grinding in patients. If you suspect you might need a night guard, visit the dentist for a consultation.
Request an appointment here: https://www.belairdentalassociates.com or call Belair Dental Associates at (706) 426-5520 for an appointment in our Evans office.
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