Quick answers to key questions
Wearing a mouthguard every night can provide several benefits for many people, but may not be necessary for everyone. Here are quick answers to some key questions about wearing mouthguards at night:
What are the potential benefits of wearing a mouthguard at night?
– Protects teeth from grinding/clenching damage
– Reduces pain from TMJ/TMD issues
– Prevents damage to dental work like braces or crowns
– Can help manage bruxism and teeth grinding
– May protect against some dental injuries
What types of mouthguards are best for nighttime wear?
Custom-made mouthguards from your dentist provide the best fit and protection. But over-the-counter boil-and-bite guards can also work well for many.
Who should wear a night guard?
Those with bruxism, TMJ/TMD issues, damaged teeth, expensive dental work, and high risk of nighttime teeth grinding or clenching often benefit most.
When is a mouthguard unnecessary?
If you don’t grind teeth and have no dental issues, a mouthguard is likely unnecessary for nightly wear. Speak to your dentist.
What are the potential downsides of wearing a mouthguard?
Some report discomfort, excess salivation, or interrupted sleep when wearing guards at night. They also require cleaning.
Understanding the risks of nighttime teeth grinding and clenching
Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is a common condition affecting around 10% of adults. It involves clenching or grinding the teeth unconsciously during sleep. This can lead to a number of oral health issues:
- Tooth damage – This friction wears down enamel and dentin layers, increasing risk of cavities and sensitivity.
- Fractures – Clenching and grinding can crack, chip, or even break teeth and dental work like crowns or veneers.
- TMJ disorders – It can strain the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), leading to pain and dysfunction.
- Headaches – Bruxism is linked to tension headaches and migraine pain upon waking.
- Gum recession – Aggressive grinding leads to receding gums, exposing sensitive root surfaces.
The clenching and grinding forces produced during sleep are very strong. Estimates suggest bruxism can result in hundreds of pounds of pressure on teeth and jaws. This makes it a significant threat to oral health if unchecked.
While occasional nighttime teeth grinding is normal, frequent episodes can irreversibly damage teeth. Wearing a proper night guard helps shield them.
Types of mouthguards for protection from bruxism
If you’re advised to wear a mouthguard at night, there are a few options to consider:
Custom night guards
Custom mouthguards are molded to precisely fit your teeth using dental impressions. This requires getting one made by your dentist. The process involves:
- Your dentist takes upper and lower dental impressions.
- These models are used to create a mouthguard specifically for your teeth.
- You return to have the dentist check the fit and make any adjustments.
- The custom guard is sent home with you to wear at night.
Custom mouthguards provide the closest fit and most protection from grinding forces. But they are the most expensive option, costing $300 to $1000 in dental fees.
Over-the-counter boil-and-bite mouthguards mold to teeth when you dip them in hot water and bite down on them. This allows some customization of fit.
They are inexpensive at around $10 to $40 and available at many pharmacies and sporting goods stores. However, protection may be less than custom versions.
Stock mouthguards are pre-formed with a one-size-fits-most design. They don’t mold to your teeth. This means they provide the least customized fit and bruxism protection.
However, stock guards are cheap at $5 to $20. They can work if you have a standard jaw and dental arch size.
Tips for adjusting to wearing a mouthguard at night
It can take some time to get accustomed to sleeping with a mouthguard. Here are some tips to help adjust:
Wear the guard for short periods during the day first, like when watching TV at night. This allows your mouth to adapt before using all night.
If you experience excessive drooling or discomfort, try alternate designs like a smaller guard that only covers front teeth.
Get used to having it in
Practice activities like talking and drinking water while wearing your guard to get practice before bed.
Manage dry mouth
Use sprays, gels, or beverages to moisten the mouth and throat if dryness occurs at night.
Brush and rinse your mouthguard daily after use to prevent bacterial growth which can cause bad breath, staining, or thrush.
Who needs a custom night guard?
While not mandatory for all, a custom mouthguard prescribed by your dentist is recommended for:
Those with bruxism
If you frequently grind or clench your teeth at night due to bruxism, a sturdy custom guard provides the best protection. Over-the-counter versions may wear down too quickly or fail to fully shield biting surfaces from damage.
People with TMD
Custom mouthguards help treat temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) by absorbing grinding forces and aligning the jaw for comfort. They also prevent strain that aggravates symptoms like jaw pain, headaches, or ear pain.
Those with damaged teeth
If teeth are already cracked, worn down, or previously repaired from bruxism damage, a custom guard keeps these vulnerable areas safely covered at night.
Anyone with crowns, braces, or other dental work
Custom guards evenly distribute grinding forces over restorations and orthodontics. This prevents cracks, chips, loosening, or breaks to expensive dental treatments.
Athletes who play contact sports
Custom guards protect teeth from sports-related impacts and collisions day or night for active individuals.
People at high risk of bruxism
If frequents headaches, jaw pain, or teeth grinding occur, see your dentist about having a custom guard made before major damage develops.
Lifestyle changes to reduce bruxism and teeth grinding
Along with wearing a mouthguard, making certain lifestyle adjustments can help minimize teeth grinding and clenching:
Bruxism often worsens with stress. Activities like yoga, meditation, massage, and counseling help manage underlying anxiety and tension.
Physical activity helps relieve pent-up energy that may otherwise get channeled into jaw and dental grinding.
Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco
These stimulants make bruxism and TMD issues worse, so limiting intake, especially before bed, helps reduce grinding.
Get screened for sleep disorders
Since bruxism often occurs during sleep, getting tested for issues like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and insomnia allows for treatment that minimizes teeth grinding.
Use warm compresses and massage
Gently massaging jaw muscles and using warm compresses helps relieve discomfort from overworked chewing muscles and TMJ strain.
Are there downsides to wearing a mouthguard every night?
While generally safe and effective, wearing a mouthguard nightly has some potential downsides to consider:
Mouthguards can cause irritation like excessive salivating, gagging, or soreness from a poor fit or adjustment period. This usually resolves with time.
Some report difficulty falling asleep or getting a good night’s rest while wearing an appliance. Selecting a thinner, softer design can help.
Ill-fitting stock or boil-and-bite guards don’t properly protect teeth and can disrupt sleep. Get a custom one made if this occurs.
Daily cleaning using a toothbrush, antibacterial rinse, and proper storage are vital. Leaving guards in the mouth or rinsing with water only can allow odor-causing bacteria to build up.
Rarely, long-term use reshapes the bite. Visits to the dentist allow observation for any problems. Bite adjustments are an option if changes occur.
For most, paying attention to fit, cleaning, and replacement minimizes issues when guards are recommended by a dentist for protection and oral health.
Signs you may be grinding or clenching your teeth
Watch for these common signs of bruxism so you know when to discuss night guards and other treatments with your dentist:
Tooth pain or sensitivity
Grinding wears away enamel that protects teeth from pain. Increased sensitivity, especially to hot and cold foods or when chewing, results.
Chipped, damaged, or loose teeth
Recurring fractures, cracks, or breaks in teeth or dental work occur. Teeth may also feel loose.
Facial muscle soreness
Aching and tired jaws, especially in the morning, signal overuse from frequent clenching and grinding during sleep.
Bruxism sufferers often wake with headaches concentrated in the temples. Jaw tension from grinding contributes to them.
Jaw joint soreness from excessive grinding and clenching can radiate to the ears, causing discomfort.
A partner may notice grinding noises that interrupt their or your sleep. Teeth marks inside the cheek can also occur.
Excessive tooth wear
Your dentist will notice accelerated wearing away of enamel during checkups if bruxism is severe.
When to talk to your dentist about nightguards
Discuss nightguards and other bruxism treatments with your dentist if:
- You experience any signs of teeth grinding or clenching
- You wake up with facial pain or sore jaws
- You have chipped or damaged teeth
- Your partner notices grinding noises at night
- You have dental treatments like crowns, braces, or bridges that need protecting
- You participate in high-impact sports with risk of dental injury
Dentists can provide custom nightguards if appropriate. They also screen for related issues like sleep disorders, TMJ dysfunction, and high anxiety levels.
Professional treatment options for bruxism
For moderate to severe teeth grinding and clenching, dentists have several advanced treatment options in addition to mouthguards:
Botox injections relax the chewing muscles, reducing grinding and clenching force. However, the effects wear off after a few months.
Reshaping, crowns, or bonding help repair teeth damaged from bruxism. This protects vulnerable areas.
PT aims to reduce muscle pain and spasms related to TMJ disorders aggravated by teeth grinding and clenching.
An evaluation at a sleep center can identify issues like sleep apnea that may contribute to bruxism.
Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches stress management skills to help limit teeth grinding related to anxiety and tension.
Muscle relaxants or sedatives may be prescribed in some cases to prevent bruxism during sleep.
While not universally needed, wearing a mouthguard designed for your teeth at night offers protection, prevents damage, and provides peace of mind for those at risk of bruxism. Consult your dentist to decide if a dental night guard is right for you based on your oral health status and any signs of teeth grinding or clenching you may have experienced. With customized treatment, most can manage bruxism and enjoy years of healthy and sound sleep.