Occlusal Guards 101

Dentist fitting man for an occlusal guard

Why would I need an occlusal guard?

Healthy teeth are remarkably strong. The enamel covering your teeth is the hardest substance in the body. Nonetheless, any part of the body wears out with overuse or misuse. Both your teeth and your TMJ (the jaw joint) are prone to showing signs and symptoms of excessive and constant force. Clenching and grinding are two of the most common culprits. At rest and when sleeping, your jaw should be relaxed leaving a cushion of space between the upper and lower teeth. Stress and other factors may keep this from happening. You may notice yourself clenching your teeth together or grinding your teeth during the day. Or you may find that when you wake up in the morning you have pain in your TMJ or notice tenderness in your cheek muscles similar to the feeling of muscle pain after a good workout at the gym. Your dentist may notice wear on your teeth over time. An occlusal guard worn at night can protect your teeth from further damage and help alleviate some symptoms.

What are my options for an occlusal guard?

For best results, your dentist will have a custom occlusal guard made to fit over your upper or lower teeth. Not only will this be the most comfortable option, but it is also the safest option. Over-the-counter night guards (often known as boil and bite) are simply not as effective and could end up causing more bite issues. Your TMJ is a complex joint. It is your dentist’s job to make sure that any dental appliance you wear is safe, customized just for you, and will not cause additional problems. Your dentist can also fit and continually adjust your occlusal guard to take pressure off your TMJ and teeth as needed or as changes occur in your mouth.

What should I expect?

Having an occlusal guard made just for you is easier than ever! Your dentist will take a digital model of your teeth with a digital scanner. This process takes only a few minutes and eliminates the need for the impressions used in the past. When your appliance arrives from the lab, the dentist will fit your occlusal guard and make any necessary adjustments. While it may take you a few nights to get used to wearing it, most people don’t notice it at all while sleeping.

How do I take care of it?

You’ll want to brush your occlusal guard with water every morning after you take it out before storing it in a safe place out of reach of any pets you may have. They are very durable but don’t hold up well as a chew toy for your dog! We also recommend you bring your occlusal guard to each of your dental checkups. Your dentist will check the fit, evaluate wear, and clean it for you.

If you have questions or think you may need an occlusal guard, consult with one of our dentists to see if it is the right treatment option for you. Call us at 610-942-3321 to schedule a dental appointment.


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