Night Guards & Mouth Guards
You may blame your trouble sleeping on stress or insomnia, but if you wake up with an aching jaw and neck, sore throat, or migraines, your lost sleep may be caused by bruxism, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), or sleep apnea. If you have been diagnosed with any of these conditions, your doctor may have urged you to see a dentist to have a night guard (also known as a bite plate) made.
Dr. Josie Dovidio will create a custom night guard for you in our office. This is an important step to take, as a night guard will protect your teeth and keep your airway open as you sleep. As you regain normal sleep patterns, you will find that your symptoms disappear.
Bruxism & Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)
Bruxism, which is the clenching and grinding of teeth, is a destructive dental condition. You may not realize you have it, but the common symptoms of bruxism are waking in the morning with neck and jaw pain, pain in the ears and shoulders, headaches, and migraines. The more severe the pain, the likelier bruxism is behind it.
Because bruxism exerts great pressure on your teeth, it can be quite destructive. You can wear down or crack your teeth from grinding and clenching at night, which exposes the nerve to bacteria that can cause tooth decay, abscesses, and eventual tooth loss.
Bruxism is also the root cause of temporomandibular joint disease (TMJ), which is a degenerative inflammation of the joint of the lower jaw. TMJ is not caused solely by bruxism, but bruxism can lead to the condition. If you have TMJ, your symptoms may include pain in the jaw just before the ear that radiates to the neck, shoulders, and temples; locking of the joint that prevents you from opening your mouth fully or at all; clicking noises in the joint; pain while chewing; and a grating feeling when you move your lower jaw.
While TMJ can fade in time, bruxism as a root cause must be prevented to avoid severe damage to your teeth. If you feel you may have bruxism, or have spoken to your doctor about specific symptoms, contact our office and make an appointment to consult with Dr. Dovidio about treatment.
Sleep apnea has gained growing attention in the last decade for the amount of harm it does to your general health. It refers to a condition in which you stop breathing periodically during the night; the lack of oxygen causes your brain to signal you to wake up slightly so that you can start breathing again. You may snore loudly, with gasps and snorts as you begin breathing once more. This is one of the best-known signs that someone is suffering from sleep apnea, but it’s possible to have sleep apnea and not have this signature symptom.
This repetition of waking and sleeping robs you of a full night’s sleep so that you spend your day suffering from headaches, physical and mental fatigue, and moderate to severe mood changes. If untreated, over time sleep apnea can contribute to high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, arrhythmia, diabetes, depression, and cardiac arrest.
If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor may prescribe continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP), which consists of wearing a machine-operated mask that pushes air directly into your air passage and keeps you breathing while you sleep. If you find the CPAP mask to be uncomfortable or disruptive, contact Dr. Dovidio to see if a custom night guard would provide a satisfactory alternative.
What Is a Night Guard?
A night guard, usually made of a special plastic material, is worn over the teeth to keep your back teeth apart. It relieves pressure on the jaw joint, which lets the inflammation subside, and prevents you from grinding and clenching your teeth. They can be customized for bruxism and TMJ sufferers – and also for sleep apnea, by holding your lower jaw forward so that your throat and neck tissues cannot close and obstruct your breathing.
While you can buy night guards over the counter, some are pre-made and cannot be adjusted to fit your mouth, where others (“boil and bite” guards) can be too thick for comfort. A custom-made night guard has the advantage of being made to fit your teeth and gums and will be comfortable to wear as well as durable.
Make an appointment with our office to see Dr. Dovidio to have a custom-made night guard. When you come in, Dr. Dovidio will perform an examination to see if your teeth have been harmed and then take an impression of your teeth for the night guard. The impression is sent to a lab, where your custom guard is created and sent back to Dr. Dovidio. A follow-up appointment will be needed to make certain that you know how to use the guard and that it fits correctly.
You should wear the night guard every night, as it will significantly reduce the wear on your teeth and the accompanying symptoms of bruxism and TMJ. If you find the night guard is bulky, doesn’t offer enough relief, or obstructs your airflow, let us know, and Dr. Dovidio will meet with you again to create a more suitable night guard.
Mouth guards are for use if you play sports (even non-contact sports can lead to mouth injuries) or participate in recreational activities where your mouth might need protection. The mouth guard can help to reduce or eliminate the chance of taking an injury to your teeth, lips and tongue, and soft tissues of the mouth. It can even be worn over braces, although retainers and other orthodontic devices should not be worn while taking part in any activity where you can hurt your mouth. If you lead an active lifestyle, Dr. Dovidio can create a custom mouth guard that will help protect you from accidental trauma.
Give us a call if you need a night guard or would like to learn about having a mouth guard custom-created for you. Dr. Dovidio will consult with you about your concerns and needs and work with you to make certain your guard fits you perfectly.