Arlington, VA

Today Dr. Hartman and Dr. Morrow with Elite Dental in Clarendon address this commonly asked question and explain why you may need a night guard in the first place.

Not to ruin the ending, however the short answer to the question “Can I just get an over-the-counter night guard?” is simply NO!

Before the dentists explain why an over the counter night guard is not a good idea, they’ll first talk about one of the major reasons most people need a night guard — teeth grinding.

What is bruxism?

Teeth grinding is fairly common. Studies show it can affect up to 40 million people (including kids). Grinding your teeth can cause discomfort in your jaw and facial muscles, and can lead to very expensive dental work if not properly treated.

Also known as bruxism, grinding or clenching can be caused by a number of factors such as stress, medications, an airway/sleep issue, or misalignment of the teeth. Side effects of grinding often include headaches, jaw pain, gum recession, damaged or fractured teeth, worn out enamel and tooth sensitivity, just to name a few.

How do you treat bruxism?

If you have jaw pain or think you grind your teeth, the first and most important step is to talk to your dentist to receive a proper diagnosis. When we evaluate for teeth grinding, we ask you questions about your symptoms and your sleep. This is important because many of our patients who grind their teeth don’t even know they do it! After an evaluation and diagnosis, your dentist can discuss treatment options. Many times, this will include a night guard.

What is a night guard?

A night guard is a protective mouth appliance worn on the top or bottom teeth when you sleep. A night guard prevents the teeth from grinding against each other and relaxes the muscles into their most natural, untensed position. When a custom night guard is properly fabricated by your dentist, it will not only protect the teeth from further wear, it will also relax the joint and jaw muscles to alleviate jaw pain, headaches and muscle tension.

So why can’t I get an over-the-counter night guard?

Patients may be tempted to purchase a night guard online or from the drugstore, but there are many drawbacks to using over the counter appliances. The boil-and-bite or over-the-counter guards can position the jaw in an unnatural way, causing discomfort immediately or over time.

With prolonged poor positioning, a patient’s pain in their joints often worsens and creates the possibility of permanent teeth repositioning and changes in your daily bite. Over-the-counter guards usually have a short life span and have to be frequently replaced too, especially when used by someone who grinds their teeth heavily.

So there you have it! The long-term potential for changes to the jaw, added pain and damage to your teeth can become more expensive and time-consuming than investing in a properly made custom night guard from the beginning. They are worth the investment when recommended by your dentist!

Dr. Hartman and Dr. Morrow practice at Elite Dental in Arlington, Virginia and are currently accepting new patients. Call 703-988-6963, or email [email protected] to schedule an appointment.

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