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What Are Night Guards Made of & How Do They Work

Female taking a bite of plaster dental impression form

Sleeping is the best way your body can rest up after a long day at work or school. However, you might wake up on the bad side of the bed because you suddenly feel your jaws tightening in the morning. Fortunately, this is one problem that you can address with night guards.

Night guards are dental appliances that shield your upper and lower teeth. When you clench your jaw, the guard helps distribute the force evenly across your teeth instead of concentrating it on a few, preventing tooth damage. They also provide a cushion that reduces strain on your jaw muscles and joints.

What Materials Are Night Guards Made of?

Material night guards are made of the following:

  • Soft Plastic or Vinyl. These mouthguards for sleeping are typically the most comfortable. They’re an ideal choice for individuals with light teeth grinding. However, they may not last as long due to the soft, durable material and may encourage more chewing or grinding in the long run.
  • Acrylic (Hard Plastic). Acrylic dental guards are known for their durability, and dentists usually recommend them for severe cases of bruxism, a condition characterized by grinding teeth. These guards, though rigid, offer excellent protection against teeth grinding and clenching during sleep. However, some may require adjustments to get used to wearing them comfortably at night.
  • Dual Laminate (Hybrid). These night guards are expertly designed to provide optimal comfort and durability. With a soft inner layer ensuring a cozy fit and a hard outer layer for long-lasting wear, they’re great for people experiencing moderate to severe teeth-grinding issues.
  • EVA (Ethylene-vinyl acetate). This type of plastic is characterized by its soft and flexible nature. EVA occlusal guards are favored for their lightweight properties and come in a clear form that allows dentists to mold them to the unique contours of your mouth, ensuring a comfortable fit.
  • BPA-Free Plastics. Some night guards use BPA-free plastics because of growing concerns regarding the potential health risks associated with BPA exposure. Apart from prioritizing safety, these also offer a soft and comfortable feel, which makes them a favorable choice for individuals who prioritize their oral health and well-being and seek to avoid potential exposure to harmful toxins.

How Do Night Guards Work?

Night guards work by protecting your jaw and teeth during sleep from the damaging effects of bruxism, also known as teeth grinding or clenching, which happens during sleep.

The night guard acts as a protective barrier between your teeth. When you unconsciously attempt to grind or clench your teeth at night while wearing a night guard, instead of direct tooth-to-tooth contact, the guard absorbs and disperses the force exerted by your jaw. It prevents wear and tear on your teeth, reducing the risk of chipping, fractures and excessive wear.

Furthermore, by preventing the full force of clenching, the night guard reduces strain on your jaw muscles and joints, potentially easing symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Remember that this condition can cause facial pain and discomfort, specifically in the jaw area. In some cases, wearing night guards can even be a subconscious reminder for the brain to stop the grinding action.

Why Use a Custom-Fit Night Guard?

While you can purchase a generic night guard at your nearest pharmacy, it’s highly recommended to opt for a custom-fit one instead. The guard is designed specifically for you, so the fit is comfortable and snug. Dental professionals take impressions of your mouth with specialized materials and use them to create a replica of your teeth structure.

Custom-fit night guards offer the following benefits:

Prevents Teeth Grinding and Jaw Clenching

This oral appliance is a protective barrier between your teeth, preventing the wear and tear caused by grinding (bruxism) and jaw clenching. This can help prevent tooth enamel erosion and damage and improve dental health.

Reduces Headaches and Jaw Pain

By alleviating the pressure on your jaw, night guards can greatly reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches and jaw pain often associated with bruxism.

Improves Sleep Patterns

Wearing a night guard can lead to more peaceful sleep by preventing discomfort and the negative effects of teeth grinding. This may contribute to better overall health and well-being.

Cost-effective Dental Protection

Investing in a dental night guard can save you money in the long run by preventing the need for costly dental procedures to repair damage caused by unchecked teeth grinding, such as fillings, crowns, or even tooth replacements.

Customizable for Comfort

Night guards can be custom-made to fit your mouth perfectly, ensuring comfort and effectiveness. Custom-fitted night guards make them more comfortable to wear every night and more effective at preventing dental issues.

Helps Reduce Sleep Apnea Symptoms

For individuals suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, this dental device can help prevent it. While it’s not a cure for sleep apnea, a properly designed night guard can help keep the airway open by positioning the jaw joints to promote better airflow and sleep quality.

Night Guards Care and Maintenance Tips

  • Clean It Regularly. Rinse your custom night guards with warm water before and after each use to remove bacteria or plaque. Use a soft toothbrush to gently scrub it. Avoid using toothpaste as it can be too abrasive and cause scratches where bacteria can grow.
  • Deep Clean Weekly. Once a week, deep clean your custom night guards. You can use a specialized denture cleaning solution, mild dish soap, or a mixture of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. Avoid using alcohol-based cleaners as they can degrade the material of the guard.
  • Dry It Properly. After cleaning your night guard, dry it completely before storing it to prevent bacterial growth. If you want to dry it effectively, place the night guard on a clean, flat surface and let it air dry naturally. This simple step can help maintain the hygiene and longevity of your night guard.
  • Store It Correctly. Dental experts recommend storing it in a ventilated, hard-shell case when not in use if you want to increase your night guard’s lifespan. This practice facilitates air circulation to prevent moisture buildup and shields the guard from potential damage or contamination.
  • Avoid Heat. Avoid exposing it to high temperatures to maintain the integrity of your night guard. Heat sources such as hot water, direct sunlight or the interior of a car can potentially warp the night guard, leading to problems with the fit and effectiveness. You must store your night guard in a cool, dry place to ensure its longevity and proper function.
  • Regular Inspection. Remember to check your night guard regularly for any signs of wear, tear or damage. Don’t hesitate to contact your dentist if you notice any significant changes or issues. It’s better to address any concerns early on to avoid potential discomfort or the need for a replacement in the future.
  • Bring It to Dental Appointments. Lastly, don’t forget to bring your night guard when visiting your dentist for your regular check-up. Having your dentist professionally clean your night guard is a good practice to ensure it’s free from bacteria buildup. Your dentist can also inspect your night guard for proper fit, find signs of wear and tear and address potential damage to prolong its effectiveness.

Protect Your Teeth From Tooth Damage With High-Quality Night Guards

Investing in high-quality night guards can provide numerous benefits for your overall oral health and well-being. With proper care and maintenance, they can effectively protect your teeth from the damaging effects of bruxism while promoting better sleep quality.

Call us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about how night guards can benefit you. Together, we can keep your smile healthy and bright!