Protect Your Teeth From Grinding and Clenching While You Sleep

occlusal night guards

Occlusal Night Guards for Sleep Bruxism

At William A. Raineri DDS, PC Orthodontics, we offer occlusal night guards to patients with sleep bruxism (chronic teeth grinding). If you’ve ever woken up with a sore jaw, tooth pain, or a headache, then you know the struggle of sleep bruxism. The American Dental Association estimates that it affects 10-15% of adults, and children can experience it too. Because it happens in your sleep, stopping it can be very difficult, but one way to protect your teeth from the damaging effects of grinding is to wear a custom night guard.

How Occlusal Night Guards Help

Occlusal night guards come in hard, medium, and soft varieties, with the soft ones resembling mouth guards for sports and hard ones resembling clear plastic retainers, though they’re much sturdier and you usually only need one for the upper teeth. Wearing a night guard provides a cushioning effect so that the upper and lower teeth can’t wear away at each other. It will protect your teeth from external damage caused by grinding, such as chipping and erosion, but as long as the grinding still happens, other symptoms like jaw pain may not change.

Occlusal Night Guards Versus Retainers

While hard night guards might look like retainers, they are not necessarily interchangeable. You should never use a normal retainer as a night guard, because it doesn’t have the necessary thickness to withstand the pressure. You should also be careful about using occlusal night guards as retainers. If you have a hard night guard that is properly fitted to your teeth, it can serve as a retainer, but a soft night guard won’t prevent your teeth from shifting.

Custom Night Guards By the Orthodontist

You can either buy your night guard over the counter or get a custom night guard from the dentist. A typical over-the-counter night guard requires you to shape it to your teeth by boiling it, allowing it a moment to cool, and then gently biting into it. If you obtain your night guard through us, the added comfort and quality will be worth the greater price. We use our intraoral scanner to take a 3D model of the inside of your mouth (no putty involved!), and then we can print your precisely customized occlusal night guard in-office with our dental 3D printer.

Cleaning and Storing Your Night Guard

Just like our teeth, a night guard will accumulate bacteria, plaque, and tartar over time unless it is cleaned. We keep it from building up on our teeth by brushing and flossing, and we have to clean occlusal night guards regularly too or they will soon become filmy, cloudy, foul-tasting, smelly, and covered in white spots. Always rinse your night guard after you take it out, then brush it with your toothbrush (but no toothpaste, which is too abrasive for the plastic material).

Daily cleanings can only do so much, however, which is why it’s important to give your night guard the occasional deep clean to keep it good as new. Make a mixture of water and baking soda or water and vinegar or just use hydrogen peroxide. Simply soak the night guard for a few minutes, then rinse it and let it dry. Never use hot water or harsh chemicals like bleach on your night guard.

Unlike braces, occlusal night guards are only part-time orthodontic appliances, so storage is important. Harmful bacteria thrive in warm, damp enclosed environments — such as the inside of a closed night guard case. Keep your night guard somewhere safe and cool where it can dry fully between uses. (That’s also how you should store your toothbrush.)

How Do I Get My Night Guard?

If you think you have sleep bruxism, don’t wait for the symptoms to worsen; call (315) 457-4900 or email us to schedule an appointment, and Dr. Raineri can determine the right solution for you and fit you for your custom night guard. We can also discuss other methods of reducing your grinding symptoms, such as lowering stress levels. We look forward to seeing you! You can learn more about us by checking our business page, and make sure to get directions before heading our way.