What is a Nightguard?
A nightguard is a retainer-like plastic piece that can be hard or soft. It covers the biting surfaces and can be worn on either the bottom or top set of teeth. Since patients have different teeth patterns, a nightguard is custom-made for each patient by molding it to fit your teeth without the risk of being uncomfortable or unnecessarily bulky. It has many names; therefore, when you hear dentists talk about a mouthguard, occlusal guard, bite splint, dental guard, or nocturnal bite plate, they refer to the same thing.
Importance of Getting the Right Nightguard
Prevent Plaque Development
Despite the similarity in names, you should not confuse a sports mouth guard with the one designed for preventing teeth grinding and clenching. A sports mouth guard will do more harm than good. It covers the teeth and gums as it is meant to protect them from blunt force trauma. If worn at night, it traps bacteria on the gum’s surface while you sleep since saliva can’t get to the gums while wearing a sports mouth guard.
Saliva helps to neutralize acids that can cause cavities and washes away food particles hence preventing plaque development. Therefore, it is best to consult an oral hygiene professional when looking for a nightguard to avoid damaging your teeth. It is important to note that some nightguards come with holes to allow saliva to access your teeth. Thus, a dentist will provide you with the right design depending on the condition of your teeth.
Prevent Changing Your Bite
A nightguard is usually fitted precisely to your teeth and bite because its aim is to protect the surfaces from grinding against each other. Since sports mouthguards are soft and made of a thicker rubbery material they are not designed to fit your bite. Softer material will cause you to chew while sleeping as the brain interprets it to be food. This may cause muscle discomfort and mat prematurely wear through the soft material. If you choose to wear a sports mouthguard at night, it would cause your bite to shift with time. The effect would manifest itself after a while when your bite changes.
Types of Nightguards
The American Sleep Association classifies nightguards depending on the materials from which they are made:
These are made from acrylic and are used to treat TMJ and severe teeth grinding and clenching cases. As the muscles relax, the bite changes due to the lower jaw positioning itself in a healthy centric position. Adjustments to the bite on the guard will help your muscles and jaw relax.Since hard nightguards are made from a firm material, they are the most durable type.