Why Some People Need to Wear a Night Guard
Patients who have been diagnosed with bruxism (teeth grinding and teeth clenching) or TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) may need to wear a night guard every night in order to treat their sleep disorder. Night guards essentially separate the top and bottom rows of your teeth so that contact between the two is impossible. Night guards are usually worn only while a person sleeps, when he or she cannot control teeth grinding and teeth clenching.
Since there is no proven cure for people with these conditions, save some forms of surgery to replace a dysfunctional joint in some TMJ cases, a night guard is one of the only ways to protect the teeth from becoming damaged or lost altogether. The sleep disorder procedure required to make a mold of your teeth and therefore make a night guard that fits over your teeth properly can be done at many dentists’ offices. The cost of getting one made is sometimes covered by insurance companies.
Getting Custom Night Guard Fitted
There are over-the-counter mouth guards available at many drug stores which claim to have the same effect as a custom-fitted night guard. Some patients find that this cost-effective method is a better option for them, while others may find that specially-made mouth guards feel more comfortable and do not fall out while they are sleeping. In general, getting a custom-fitted night guard is the traditional treatment method for bruxism and TMJ.
At the dentist’s office, the dentist will use a malleable putty material to create a mold of the upper and lower rows of your teeth. The putty is generally placed in an impression tray similar to the trays used when fluoride is given to a patient; the patient will be asked to bite down once to make an imprint. The dentist can then send the impression to a dental lab that can use the putty impression as a mold for your night guard.
At the lab, plaster is used to make a replica of your teeth. When the actual acrylic mouth guard is made, a soft laminate material will be heated up and molded over the replica so that each tooth, and every nook and cranny in between teeth, is completely covered. After the material cools, the night guard is sent back to the dentist, who gives it to the patient to make sure it fits correctly. Some dental labs will create night guards for patients who don’t want to use the dentist as a “middle man.” If you're unsure whether or not a night guard is the best way to treat your sleep disorder, simply ask a free question to a sleep professional in your area.