Night guards. Their Function and use

ferula bruxismo

Bruxism is the action ​of involuntarily clenching and grinding your teeth​. Apart from wearing down your teeth,​ it tends to cause other problems​, given that the clenching leads to aching muscles and often provokes headaches or pain in your head and neck, as well as pain in your joints which you may confuse with earache, etc.

Specifically, ​TMJ ​or temporomandibular joint disorder (referring to the joint that connects the jaw to the skull) is  one of the most frequent consequences. This joint is located just in front of your ear and may cause a pain  frequently mistaken for earache.

The joint may start bothering you suddenly, particularly on wakening in the morning, when pressing the area in  front of your ear with your finger or when opening and closing your mouth.

Early diagnosis of bruxism is important, since the sooner the patient is treated,the less their teeth and joints will suffer, and the less pain they will have.

Remember that ​bruxism is accentuated with stress and anxiety ​or emotional tension, and sometimes the first signs of TMJ disorder appear at complicated times, such as when you are sitting exams, working too much, have family problems, etc.

At others it simply means that you grind your teeth, eventually causing different kinds of pain, which you will also feel when opening and closing your mouth.

From the dentistry point of view, there is ​one particularly effective conservative treatment ​for bruxism: the ​night guard​.

Treating bruxism and TMJ disorder, when the pathology is so intense that it doesn’t improve with a night guard, may require the ​collaboration of several specialists ​such as dentists, physiotherapists, neurologists and psychologists.

What is a night guard?

It is a ​personalised tooth guard​, made to measure in acrylic, and is only used at night, ​while sleeping​. 

It is transparent, with a thickness of 2 or 3 millimetres and is placed over one set of teeth, generally the top set, to  prevent your teeth from coming into contact with one another and therefore stop them from grinding.

With the guard fitted, on grinding or clenching your teeth, instead of wearing down the enamel, you will gradually  wear down the resin of the guard, ​thereby protecting your teeth​. 

Furthermore, on clenching your teeth, you also push your jaw against your skull, affecting the temporomandibular  joint or TMJ. Wearing a nightguard ​prevents your jaw from digging into your skull​. This takes the pressure off  the joint, preventing it from suffering excessive load or wear. If the TMJ is already injured, wearing a night guard  will stop the joint from hurting while you sleep.

What does a night guard do?

Night guards are ideal for ​preventing dental wear​, protecting your joints and relaxing your muscles. Their benefits are noticeable from the first day, relieving associated pain in your teeth or head.

They also help to return the temporomandibular joint to its normal position.

Overall, night guards guarantee a better, more restful sleep.  

Caring for your night guard

You must take good ​care when using ​a night guard. You must slip it into your mouth using your fingers and make  sure that it is correctly in place before biting down on it.

To remove it, pull gently on both sides and rinse it under running tap water. It must then be left for a few minutes  in ​a glass with water and half of an effervescent denture tablet ​of the kind used to clean all kinds of dentures  and orthodontic devices.

It must be stored in a special plastic box with perforations to allow the air to flow and therefore dry your night  guard. ​It is important to clean your night guard properly ​as it could otherwise give you a bad taste in the mouth.

At our Dental Clinic in San Sebastian we recommend that you put your night guard in water with the half  effervescent tablet immediately you get up in the morning, while having a shower. You should then put it into its  box and on your bedside table so that it’s ready to wear at night in case you’ve forgotten it in the bathroom.

The vast majority of patients ​take less than a week to get used to it ​and soon have no problem wearing it  regularly when they realise just how well it protects their teeth and combats TMJ disorder.