If your dentist at Smiles in Springfield notices signs that you grind or clench your teeth when you sleep, they may recommend that you start wearing a custom-fitted night guard.
Also known as an oral splint or a nocturnal bite plate, a night guard is a retainer-like appliance that covers your top or bottom set of teeth. While it’s most often prescribed to treat nighttime grinding and clenching (bruxism), it may also be used to address persistent jaw pain brought on by temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction.
Whatever the reason you’ve been prescribed a night guard, you stand to gain multiple benefits from wearing it regularly. Here are six key advantages of consistent night guard use:
1. Prevents tooth damage
Unconscious nighttime grinding, clenching, and gnashing can be very hard on your teeth. Over time, untreated bruxism can lead to:
- Cracked, chipped, or loose teeth
- Damaged or lost dental fillings
- Excessive surface wear (abrasion)
- Visibly thin or worn-out enamel
- Teeth that are overly sensitive
By ensuring that your top teeth can’t come into forcible contact with your bottom teeth when you sleep, a night guard is highly effective at preventing bruxism-related tooth damage.
2. Reduces jaw tension and pain
Involuntary nocturnal grinding and clenching isn’t just detrimental to your teeth, it’s also hard on your jaw joints and muscles. This can give rise to:
- Chronic facial tenderness
- Persistent jaw joint pain
- Radiating jaw and facial pain
- Discomfort when chewing
- Overly stiff jaw muscles
Wearing a night guard when you sleep doesn’t simply reduce jaw tension and pain, it can also prevent (or treat) the kind of ongoing TMJ dysfunction that leads to a full-blown TMJ disorder.
3. Stops chronic headaches
The effects of unconscious grinding and clenching go beyond tooth damage and jaw pain. In fact, well before obvious tooth and jaw issues begin to emerge, bruxism tends to make itself known in the form of chronic headaches.
Given that the pain-sensitive structures of your head are readily influenced by lingering oral health issues, it’s not surprising that headache pain is often an early sign of bruxism. Morning headaches are particularly common for people who grind their teeth at night.
By cushioning your teeth and jaw joints from the intense and destructive force of unconscious grinding and clenching, wearing a night guard can reduce or prevent headaches as well as associated neck pain.
4. Promotes restorative sleep
Nighttime clenching and grinding may be an involuntary act, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t disruptive — chronic bruxism disturbs normal sleeping patterns and makes it difficult to get enough restorative slumber.
Consistently wearing a night guard supports healthier sleep patterns by keeping your jaws more relaxed. And when your jaw joints and muscles stay relaxed throughout the night, you’re better able to relax your entire body and enter a state of deep sleep.
5. Alleviates chronic snoring
Snoring may not be the worst symptom of bruxism, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying for you or your partner. For many adults, the clenched jaws of bruxism often lead to a reduced airflow that makes it harder to breathe — and makes snoring more likely — during sleep.
Wearing a night guard relaxes your jaws and creates a bit of space between your upper and lower teeth, all of which helps improve airflow and reduce chronic snoring.
6. Protects long-term oral health
The benefits of wearing a night guard are both cumulative and enduring: By preventing tooth damage, easing jaw tension and pain, and helping you avoid serious TMJ dysfunction, a night guard is a great investment in your long-term oral health.
Saving your teeth and protecting your jaw has another major upside too — you won’t have to endure expensive restorative dental treatments in the future if you safeguard your oral health today.
If you’d like to learn more about custom night guards, we can help. Call 703-634-4239 to book a visit with one of the bruxism/TMJ specialists in our Springfield, Virginia, office today.