What is an Occlusal Guard or Splint?

The term “occlusal” simply means the contact surface between the teeth (also called the chewing surface of the teeth).

The purpose of an occlusal guard or splint or even more commonly referred to as a standard “night guard” is to protect these “chewing surfaces” by breaking up that direct tooth on tooth contact.

Why would you want to break up the direct contact between the teeth arches?

Well, our teeth can be quite violent. When we grind or clench at night, we can emit a force much greater than during the day when we’re awake. Overtime, even if you’re just clenching or grinding your teeth during the day (much less at night), the enamel starts to wear down or tiny fracture lines start to appear. This is a battle of attrition my friends. Your jaw power will eventually win the fight against your teeth and the losses are great. Teeth breakage, teeth flattening, jaw pain, headaches, facial pain, tooth sensitivity and gum loss are just some of the symptoms of incessant teeth grinding and/or jaw clenching.

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The dental repairs are in the thousands and that line you’ve heard from anyone who has had extensive dental work time and time again stands to be 100% correct. There is nothing better than natural, healthy teeth.

Bottom line: Preserve them if you can.

How? By wearing an occlusal guard nightly. By wearing an occlusal guard, you’re breaking up that direct tooth on tooth bruxing (grinding or clenching) and the occlusal guard is taking the damage. But make sure you are wearing the right one for you!

Even TV’s Dr. Oz says that he had to go through 3 different mouthguards before finding the right one for him.

At Sentinel Mouthguards we understand the perfect fit might need some user feedback, which is why we provide you with a 90 day satisfaction guarantee, we work with you to make sure you end up with the right guard for you. This includes changing the material type, thickness and even switching to your opposing teeth arch if necessary.

Why do I even grind my teeth? Can’t I just stop it all together.

Much research has gone into studying the cause of bruxism (teeth grinding and jaw clenching). Mainly, stress is the #1 sited reason we grind or clench our teeth. Other reasons include sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.

The bad news is, no one has yet to figure out how to stop it all together. However, if your bruxism is sourced from sleep apnea (which is when your throat muscles relax at night and then block your airway which disrupts your breathing) you can seek sleep apnea treatment that may help.

If stress is the root cause you can seek ways to ease your stress levels. This includes cutting out some of the fun stuff. What we eat and drink greatly affects our overall well-being and our teeth are no exception. Caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants may be causing you to clench or grind your teeth more so than if you weren’t taking in these stimulants. Other ways to ease stress include making positive lifestyle changes, staying away from negative people, exercise, stretching, listening to calm music, and meditation.


Occlusal guards are soft or hard devices that are worn on either the upper teeth or lower teeth (typically not worn on both arches at the same time) to protect the teeth and prevent the wearing down of teeth. These occlusal guards are generally prescribed to be worn at night but can be worn during the day. There is such a term as “awake bruxism” and some individuals do need to be wearing a night guard during the day.


An occlusal splint is made of a hard material. It is not soft. Many dental practitioners believe that this hard splint is most effective in treating teeth grinding.

You can stop the damage and even restore and repair some of the gum damage through the consistent use of wearing an occlusal guard. Wearing out your gums and teeth can be serious as it means hefty dental repairs and costly continuous oral treatment.

If you had full mouth restoration work you may need to wear an occlusal guard to protect your dental work.


Why not buy the store bought ones?

In the dental office, if a dentist suspects that you may be clenching or grinding your teeth, he/she will recommend a dental night guard. Very rarely will a dentist suggest an over the counter or store bought guard because of the lack of fit, proper retention and the cheap, soft plastic used to make these store bought types may even worsen the clenching and grinding.

An individual may be able to tell that they’re grinding or clenching their teeth themselves as they start to experience symptoms such as headaches (particularly first thing in the morning), stiffness or tightness in the jaw, popping or clicking when yawning or opening the mouth widely. If the jaw feels tight first thing in the morning, some people may feel like they need to stretch it open. This is a good indicator that you may have been clenching your jaw tight during sleep. Sore teeth is another indicator of clenching or grinding. Facial pain in general is a sign. In more severe cases, some individuals may even experience lock jaw which is when the jaw can get stuck open or it can get stuck closed. Audible grinding or clenching is another sign. A partner or spouse may inform you that they can hear you grinding your teeth at night.

Occlusal guards are used to protect not only the teeth but also the joints and jaw muscles as well. A well made custom occlusal guard is made from an impression of your teeth. It is specific to you. It is to be worn nightly and protects the teeth from the damages associated with clenching and grinding. An occlusal guard may also be worn for protecting extensive dental work. If a person has had a lot of restorations (ie: fillings, crowns, bridges, veneers) they may be a good candidate for wearing a dental night guard to protect the restorative work from breakage/damage.