A night guard is a dental appliance that is used to protect the teeth and it can have multiple functions. Typically, we would make an impression of your teeth and create a clear acrylic appliance that will limit your upper and lower teeth from hitting together and potentially creating damage to the teeth or the jaws.
What are Some of the Common Indications for a Night Guard Appliance?
- Chronic jaw pain, ear pain or facial pain
- Frequent tension headaches
- Severe wear on the chewing surfaces of your teeth
- Grooves at the gumline on multiple teeth indicating lateral clenching
- Increased sensitivity of your teeth
- Fragile veneers placed on your teeth to increase the height – vertical dimension.
- Grinding your teeth at night while you sleep – also called bruxism
- Clenching your teeth together throughout the day or at night
Most of the time, the goal of any night guard is to limit the pressure of the upper and lower teeth upon each other. If the mouth guard touches in the back, sometimes it can actually INCREASE the desire for chewing your teeth together rather than eliminate it. Therefore, the mouth guards that we create have essentially no contact on the back teeth.
It has been shown that 50% of patient with sleep apnea, also grind their teeth. This can cause muscle soreness. Therefore, it is a good idea to test for sleep apnea on patients who grind their teeth.
One of the causes of headaches is lack of oxygen to the brain – oxygen deprivation. In some cases, using a correctly made sleep apnea appliance can correct both situations at once. By reducing the muscular clenching strength by about 80% – through the use of an oral appliance – not only will they have less muscle soreness, but also better oxygenation to the brain and body.
Therefore, simply making a night guard, or purchasing a bulky “boil and bite” guard online or at the pharmacy, might actually make your situation worse or mask a potentially more serious underlying condition if you don’t also conduct a home sleep study to rule out sleep apnea as well!
Dr. James R. Donley of Lumbertown Dental Wellness in North Muskegon, MI has been trained in sleep apnea for over a dozen years and is a local authority on the topic. In addition to travelling to Chicago and other cities for additional study, Dr. Donley has lectured and given workshops to other professionals explaining the value of checking for and properly treating sleep apnea.