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Night guards, also known as dental night guards or occlusal splints, are dental devices designed to protect the teeth and jaws from the effects of teeth grinding (bruxism) and clenching during sleep. Bruxism is a common condition that can lead to various dental problems, such as tooth wear, jaw pain, headaches, and damaged dental work. Night guards create a barrier between the upper and lower teeth, cushioning the impact of grinding and preventing the teeth from coming into direct contact.
There are two main types of night guards:
- Custom-Fitted Night Guards: These night guards are made to fit your mouth precisely. Your dentist will take impressions of your teeth, and a dental laboratory will create a night guard tailored to your unique dental anatomy. Custom-fitted night guards offer the best comfort and protection, as they are designed to match the contours of your teeth.
- Over-the-Counter Night Guards: These are pre-made, one-size-fits-all night guards available at drugstores or online. While they are more affordable, they may not fit as well as custom-fitted guards and might be less comfortable. They can still offer some protection, but their effectiveness may vary.
Night guards serve several purposes:
- Protect Teeth: Night guards act as a cushion between the upper and lower teeth, preventing wear and damage caused by grinding and clenching.
- Relieve Discomfort: They can help alleviate the symptoms of bruxism, such as jaw pain, headaches, and tooth sensitivity.
- Preserve Dental Work: Night guards can protect dental work like crowns, fillings, and veneers from the excessive forces of grinding.
- Reduce Muscle Tension: By preventing the forceful contact between teeth, night guards can reduce the strain on jaw muscles, which can contribute to discomfort.