Teeth grinding is a more common problem than you might think. According to the American Dental Association, up to 15% of adults grind their teeth during their sleep—meaning they often wake up with a seemingly inexplicable headache, toothache, or sore jaw. Also called sleep bruxism, nighttime teeth-grinding can affect children as well. The condition is somewhat difficult to treat; sufferers don’t exert conscious control over the habit. To counter the harmful effects of sleep bruxism—such as muscle soreness, the development of overbites, and wearing down teeth—many dentists recommend wearing a night guard.

How to Protect Against Teeth Grinding

A night guard is one of the most effective ways to prevent sleep bruxism from wreaking short- or long-term effects on your teeth and overall health. Night guards are simple-to-use dental appliances that can be worn at night. They generally come in two varieties: a hard, sturdy type, which resembles a retainer, and a soft type, which looks like the mouthguards typically used in sports. Night guards feature a small, cushioning space between the surface of the appliance and the edges of the teeth: wearing one prevents the teeth from touching and keeps you from grinding your teeth together in your sleep.

While teeth grinding itself is difficult to prevent—because it happens unconsciously—night guards can ward off costly future dental work by preventing teeth from chipping, wearing down, or eroding during sleep bruxism. Because night guards don’t stop the grinding motion itself, individuals who experience nighttime teeth grinding may still wake up with headaches and jaw pain, however.

How Night Guards Fit into Your Dental Care Routine

A night guard fits in easily with an existing dental routine. It should be applied at night right before falling asleep, and after brushing teeth and flossing. Night guards should be cleaned and stored carefully to prevent the buildup of dirt or mold. After removing the night guard in the morning, brush it with a clean, damp toothbrush—no toothpaste needed—and allow it to air dry before closing the case. Night guards that are stored wet can become hotbeds for bacteria, so ensure the guard is dry before storing.

Note that night guards aren’t the same as retainers. In other words, they won’t help to keep your teeth in place or to straighten them—instead, they’re intended to prevent teeth from touching or grinding against each other. It is ineffective to use a night guard as a retainer, and vice versa. If you have a question about how to treat sleep bruxism while using a retainer or wearing braces, contact your dentist for advice.

How Can You Get a Night Guard?

There are two common ways to get a night guard. First, over-the-counter varieties are available from most pharmacies. The best OTC night guards allow you to shape your teeth to an existing mold. Usually, you’ll boil a night guard to make it malleable, allow it to cool safely, and then gently bite into the mold to leave the exact indentations of your teeth. This helps make night guards better suited to your own mouth.

To achieve even more precision, it’s a good idea to contact the dentist. Because dentists can use professional technology and laboratories to make an exact mold of your teeth and develop long-lasting, personalized night guards, it’s worth an added price for a longer time of use, added comfort, and higher quality. If you’ve ever had a mold of your teeth made for braces, you know the importance of having more tailored dental appliances.

Learn More About Night Guards

Sleep bruxism is a frustrating problem to suffer from. But you can keep nighttime teeth grinding from developing dental issues that are costly to treat and painful to deal with. Getting a night guard is one of the best ways to keep your teeth from wearing or hurting due to sleep bruxism.

If you or your child seem to be suffering from sleep bruxism, make sure to contact us to learn more. It’s simple to get a personalized, effective night guard that protects your overall health. Dentists can also help you bring a night guard into your existing dental care plans. For example, having an overbite, underbite, or other form of teeth misalignment can exacerbate the effects of sleep bruxism by making the eroding and grinding more pronounced. Orthodontists and dentists can help address these issues. They’re also experienced with treating sleep bruxism and can provide referrals, recommendations, and advice for more comprehensive treatment plans, such as stress reduction