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Night Guards

Night guards (occlusal guards) help the dental treatment of TMD and bruxism.

Figure 1: Lab-processed acrylic night guards (occlusal guards) are made to be worn over the upper (maxillary) teeth.

Night guards (also called occlusal guards, splints and bruxing appliances) are made of rigid or semi-rigid materials like laboratory-processed acrylic. They are generally made to be worn over the biting surfaces of either the upper or lower teeth, and are easily inserted and removed by the patient.

Night guards accomplish three main functions:

  • Evenly distribute bite forces to protect the teeth from stresses that can crack or wear them abnormally
  • Protect the temporomandibular joints (TMJs) from excessive bite stress that can produce pain, damage to the jaw joint components, and dysfunction
  • Reduce the heavy forces generated by the jaw-closing muscles.

Night guards (occlusal guards) protect teeth and jaw joints.

Figure 2: Front view of the night guard in Figure 1. Night guards protect teeth and jaw joints.

Night guards can prevent damage to teeth and dental restorations, saving the time, expense and potential discomfort of fixing problems that result from clenching the jaw muscles and grinding the teeth (bruxism), tooth wear (attrition), malocclusion, and Factitious habits. They can also be used to treat patients with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction and pain (TMD); and people suffering from jaw/facial muscle discomfort and fatigue (myalgia). It is important to understand how night guards work, to decide whether you are a patient who might benefit from the use of night guards.

In the absence of TMJ problems (TMD) or jaw/facial muscle myalgia, is important to establish that a patient has a current bruxism or jaw clenching habit before prescribing a night guard. Patients who have undergone episodes of clenching or grinding their teeth in the past may have teeth that exhibit significant signs of wear. However, they may no longer have the habit. Prescribing a night guard for such a patient may not be helpful, incurring unnecessary cost for the patient and their dental plan.

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Author: Thomas J. Greany, D.D.S. / Editor: Ken Lambrecht

This page was last updated on December 17, 2018.

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