A bite guard—also known as a night guard, dental guard, or a nocturnal bite plate—is a device that covers your teeth to protect you from the effects of grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw. Similar to the way a teeth whitening retainer or athletic mouth guard fits your mouth, a bite guard sits between your top and bottom teeth.
Teeth Grinding Symptoms
Teeth grinding (or bruxism) is a condition where a patient excessively grinds their teeth together or clenches their jaw. A patient with bruxism may unconsciously grind or clench their teeth throughout the day or at night while asleep.
Bruxism is a common symptom of TMD (temporomandibular disorder), colloquially known as TMJ (temporomandibular joint), which refers to the joint that connects your jaw to the temporal bones in your skull. This particular joint allows your jaw to hinge and enables you to chew, talk, etc.
The direct causes of TMD are unknown, but it is believed that particular traumas to the face, issues with the jaw muscles or joints, stress, or teeth grinding/clenching are contributing factors.
Symptoms of TMD include:
- Pain or tenderness in the jaw or face, especially when chewing, speaking, or yawning
- Swelling in the face or jaw
- Problems with chewing or speaking
- Uncomfortable bite (as if the teeth are not fitting together properly)
- A clicking or popping sound when opening your jaw—this may or may not hurt
- Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw
Effects of Teeth Grinding
Over time, grinding your teeth may cause serious damage. Consistent teeth grinding will wear down the surface of your teeth, destroying the protective layer of enamel.
Once the enamel is gone, there is no way for it to be replaced. This will cause your teeth to become overly sensitive to hot or cold temperatures, and it puts you at risk of tooth decay.
Constant stress and pressure can chip, crack, or even break teeth, which is not only painful but also costly. Teeth grinding can damage restorative measures like fillings, crowns, and bridges as well.
Grinding your teeth may even cause headaches or tightness in the muscles of your face, neck, and shoulders. Like any other muscle in your body, your jaw and facial muscles need a break from the tension. Clenching and grinding your teeth do not allow for proper rest, which can create tired muscles and tension headaches.
How Can a Bite Guard Help My Smile?
A bite guard puts a barrier between your teeth to reduce the stress on teeth and joints, and it helps to avoid grinding. The barrier will reduce the tension in the jaw and will facilitate pain prevention. With a cushion between your teeth, the effects of grinding your teeth are minimized.
Wearing a bite guard not only protects your teeth from physical damage, but it can help reduce chronic headaches. Grinding your teeth causes tension in the muscles of your face, jaw, and shoulders, but a bite guard can reduce these effects.
A bite guard can minimize your chances of undergoing expensive and painful dental procedures, such as root canals, crowns, or implants for tooth loss.
Grinding your teeth can impact the quality of your sleep. Choosing a bite guard can help you to get a better, more restful night’s sleep.