At Northern Colorado Prosthetic Dentistry, we specialize in evaluating patients and fitting them with custom-designed and manufactured prosthetic dental devices designed to restore, improve, and protect their smiles. A night guard is a simple dental device that can be used to protect a patient’s teeth while addressing a variety of oral health issues.
What Is a Night Guard?
A dental night guard is a protective prosthetic dental device that is worn over the teeth during sleep. Dental night guards are typically made from a variety of plastic that is durable while also being soft to the touch and gentle on the soft tissues inside the mouth.
The purpose of most dental night guards is to protect the wearer’s teeth from excessive wear and tear that can occur during sleep as a result of sleep bruxism. Other types of night guards are worn over the teeth and designed to hold a patient’s jaw in a properly aligned position during sleep in order to help overactive muscle groups relax.
Oral Health Conditions That Can Be Addressed With a Night Guard
There are three main conditions that different styles of night guards can be used to address:
Sleep bruxism is a condition characterized by a patient clenching their jaw and/or grinding their teeth while asleep. Sleep bruxism puts excessive wear and tear on a patient’s teeth, wearing away their tooth enamel. It can also weaken the teeth resulting in chips and fractures.
Additionally, sleep bruxism can cause:
- Soft tissue damage
- Gum recession
- Teeth sensitivity
- Jaw pain
- Face pain
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Muscle tension
- Headaches and migraines
Many people do not realize that they have sleep bruxism. However, if you often wake up with a strange feeling in your teeth, pain in your jaw muscles, or morning headaches, it is possible you could be clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth while you sleep.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD) is a term that’s used to refer to a variety of different disorders related to the temporomandibular joints (TMJs). The TMJs are the joints that connect the jawbone to the skull. They are responsible for moving your jawbone in all directions. They enable us to talk, chew, and yawn.
TMJD can be related to and caused by several different factors such as the misalignment of a person’s jawbones, misalignment of the teeth or bite (malocclusion), an injury, a disease, or a variety of congenital issues.
The following symptoms are associated with TMJD:
- Jaw pain
- Face, eye, neck, and shoulder pain
- Tingling or numbness in the face or jaw
- Earaches without an infection
- Clicking or popping sounds in the TMJs
- Grinding sensations in the TMJs
- Muscle tension in the jaw
- Frequent headaches and/or migraines
- Sleep bruxism
If you experience any of these symptoms, our prosthodontist can evaluate your symptoms, examine your TMJs, and talk with you about the underlying cause(s) of your TMJD. Depending on the underlying issue, a night guard could be the perfect solution for relieving your symptoms.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes a person to stop breathing multiple times while asleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is a type of sleep apnea that is caused by the physical obstruction of a person’s airways that occurs when the jaw relaxes during sleep and the tongue and other soft tissues around the throat collapse inward, blocking the airway.
Depending on the patient’s individual case, obstructive sleep apnea can sometimes be addressed with a simple night guard that’s designed to hold the jaw in the proper position to prevent the soft tissues from collapsing during sleep. As a result, the airway remains free and unobstructed while the person sleeps.
How Do You Know If You Need a Night Guard?
It can be difficult for a person to know whether or not they need a night guard because the issues that necessitate one occur during sleep.
Most often dentists recommend dental night guards to patients after diagnosing tooth enamel wear patterns, damage to a patient’s teeth, or soft tissue injuries that are indicative of jaw clenching and teeth grinding. Night guards worn for sleep apnea can be prescribed after a patient has completed a sleep study, received a sleep apnea diagnosis, and determined the type of sleep apnea they have.
While dentists and doctors most commonly detect and diagnose signs of sleep bruxism, temporomandibular joint disorder, and sleep apnea which can result in the need for a night guard, you should talk with your dentist if you notice any of the waking signs or symptoms of these conditions.
Custom-Designed Night Guards With Our Prosthodontist
At Northern Colorado Prosthetic Dentistry, our prosthodontist specializes in treating oral health conditions using prosthetic dental devices, such as custom-designed and manufactured night guards. Dr. Bock can discuss your sleep apnea diagnosis or talk with you about the symptoms you have been experiencing and evaluate your teeth, mouth, and jaw alignment.
If it is determined that a night guard could safeguard your oral health and help mitigate symptoms you’re experiencing during your waking hours, we can begin the process of creating a mouthguard designed to fit your mouth and align your jaw perfectly. This process begins with taking digital impressions of your mouth before designing and manufacturing your night guard. Once your night guard is ready, we have you come into our office for a fitting appointment to make any final adjustments and ensure everything feels just right.
To learn more about dental night guards or to find out if one might be right for you, we welcome you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Bock at Northern Colorado Prosthetic Dentistry today.