Many people wear dental appliances to protect their teeth from the heavy forces of clenching and/or grinding. We commonly refer to these appliances as “nightguards” because they guard your teeth at night (or whenever you sleep). For our purposes, we are limiting this discussion to professional, custom-made nightguards. While there are many different styles and configurations of nightguards, we will discuss the most common type, which is a hard acrylic, single arch (covering only the upper or the lower teeth) appliance that covers all of the teeth in the arch.
Why are Nightguards Important?
A nightguard is a valuable preventive tool! When your dentist identifies evidence of heavy clenching and/or grinding of your teeth, she will recommend a professional nightguard to prevent the dental problems that can arise. This includes flattening and shortening of the teeth, cracked teeth, gum recession, muscle pain, and TMJ problems.
This is truly a case of the old saying: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” While a professional nightguard can be a significant investment, it is much less expensive than the cost of fixing even a single cracked tooth. By wearing a professional nightguard consistently, you can literally save yourself thousands of dollars over your lifetime, not to mention hours in the dental chair.
Dentists nationwide are reporting an increased incidence of cracked teeth among their patients, and more are attributing this fact to COVID-related stress.
How Long Do They Last?
The lifespan of a professional nightguard varies widely. We have some patients whose nightguards are over fifteen years old. We have others who literally grind through theirs in six months. Patients who clench or grind their teeth with enough force to wear through hard acrylic that quickly will need a different type of appliance that adds muscle relaxation and better longevity.
Dr. Jill, Dr. Cara and Dr. Summer are adept at identifying those who are high risk for heavy wear and tear on a nightguard. When they do, they will recommend an appliance that will provide longer-lasting protection for the teeth, muscles and joints.
What are the Signs that My Nightguard is Deteriorating?
It is important to evaluate your nightguard on a regular basis so that you can spot these warning signs of deterioration. A properly functioning nightguard will have a smooth flat surface on the side that meets the opposite teeth.
As you inspect your nightguard, look for small indentations or notches on the surface that should be smooth and flat. These indentations usually correlate to the cusps or points on the biting surfaces of the opposing teeth. When present, they allow you to actually clench or grind with more force because there is something to lock into and squeeze. Once these notches are present, the nightguard will deteriorate relatively quickly.
Obviously, a through-and-through hold in the nightguard is also evidence of deterioration. You should also evaluate the way the guard feels in your mouth when you bite together. A properly functioning appliance will provide even biting force on both sides of your mouth. If yours gives you the feeling that one side is hitting harder than the other does, it could lead to faster wear and tear.
How Do I Maintain My Nightguard?
There are two important aspects of maintaining a healthy, properly functioning nightguard, and they are the same two aspects of maintaining your healthy smile!
First, you have to do your part at home. In the case of a nightguard, this means wearing it consistently and cleaning it well. People who wear the appliance only rarely struggle with the fit and bite changing because teeth are always moving and shifting. It is difficult to have success with a nightguard when you only wear it once a week or less. Wear it nightly for the best protection.
To clean your nightguard, always rinse and brush with a soft toothbrush after you remove it in the morning. You should then dry it off before storing it in a cool, dark place. Drying it prevents the buildup of bacteria or fungus on the appliance.
The second important aspect of maintaining a good nightguard is professional care. You should bring your appliance with you to all dental appointments. At your professional teeth cleanings, we will professionally clean the nightguard. Your doctor will evaluate the fit and make any adjustments to ensure the proper bite.
More Questions about Your Nightguard?
Call Prosper Family Dentistry at 972-347-1145 today to schedule a visit with Dr. Jill, Dr. Cara, and Dr. Summer. They can evaluate your current nightguard or begin the process to make you a new one if yours is failing.