While night guards are often interchanged with mouth guards, they are exactly the same. In fact, there are three specific types of mouth guards. The first type is called a stock mouth protector. It is cheap and can be bought from any store. However, this mouth protector can be bulky and irritating because it is not personalized and does not fit perfectly.
The second type is called the boil and bite mouth protector. Athletes wear it to prevent injuries during sports. The material is thermoplastic. It needs to be placed in hot water in order to be soft enough to mold around the teeth.
And finally, the third type is the nocturnal bite plate, or simply, the night guard. It is a custom-made mouth protector that can be obtained only from a dentist.
Symptoms that Necessitate Night Guards
A night guard is worn to address a particular oral issue – bruxism. Bruxism is the grinding of teeth during sleep. The cause of bruxism is unclear, but stress has been found to be a factor. Other suspected causes of teeth grinding are various sleep disorders, abnormal bite, and crooked alignment.
Unfortunately, unless informed by a spouse or a family member, a person will never know if he or she has bruxism. However, there are symptoms to watch out for, such as the presence of a dull headache in the morning and a sore jaw right after waking up. When bruxism is ignored, it will lead to the cracking and eventual loss of teeth.
Treatment with Night Guards
There is no medication for treating bruxism. However, there is a way to prevent further damage to the teeth. Teeth cracking can be prevented through the use of a custom-built night guard. The night guard, which is sometimes called nocturnal bite splint or bite plate, is used to cover either or both of the lower and the upper teeth.
In making the night guard, the dentist will first create a mold of the patient’s teeth. Then, a night guard is shaped around the cast. This procedure normally takes a week to finish because the material needs to be hardened enough to prevent cracking.
Results from Using a Night Guard
The patient must take care of the night guard to prevent bacteria from developing. The night guards must be frequently brushed with soap and cold water.
The night guard does not in itself prevent teeth grinding. However, a custom-built night guard can last up to 10 years, protecting teeth from the damage of teeth grinding.