Occlusal Guards and Splints
Why do I even grind my teeth? Can’t I just stop it all together?
Occlusal guards are soft or hard devices that are worn on either the upper or lower teeth arches (typically not worn on both arches at the same time) to protect the teeth and prevent them from wearing down. These occlusal guards are generally prescribed to be worn at night, but can be worn during the day too. There is a condition called “awake bruxism” and some individuals do need to be wearing a night guard during the day.
What is an Occlusal Splint?
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.
Who Needs an Occlusal Tooth Guard?
Why not simply buy the store bought ones? In the dental office, if a dentist suspects that you may be clenching or grinding your teeth, they 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 and proper retention, and the fact that 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 early in the morning), stiffness or tightness in the jaw, and 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, and facial pain, in general, is a sign. In more severe cases, some individuals may even experience a locked jaw, which is when the jaw gets stuck open or 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.
Where Can I Get an Occlusal Guard?
Occlusal guards are used to protect not only teeth, but also the joints and jaw muscles in the face as well. A well made custom occlusal guard is made from an impression of your teeth. It is specific to you and your dental anatomy. You wear it nightly to protect 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 or damage.