Occlusal Guards are removable devices that fit over the teeth and are used to help prevent the wearing down of teeth during sleep due to night time grinding and clenching. Sometimes these guards are also worn during the day if the patient’s problems are more serious than just the average teeth grinding problems.
Who Needs an Occlusal Guard?
If you wake up and do not feel rested, you have a headache or a toothache, or you have jaw joint pain, or if during a routine dental examination your dentist notices that your teeth have been ground down to a more flattened surface than should be normal, you may be prescribed an occlusal guard. Oftentimes, your teeth may start loosening and you will feel pain in your gums because of clenching your teeth too much.
Many people with these symptoms ate prescribed a guard. A custom fit occlusal guard prescribed by your dentist. These guards do not treat the problems, but they are a preventative measure against more serious problems caused by long-term teeth grinding. If these symptoms are left unchecked and continue too long without being taken care of, more dental problems, such a fractured teeth and tooth loss, will likely occur and will be much more costly in the long run.
How Do Occlusal Guards Work?
The purpose of the occlusal guard is to prevent further tooth damage due to clenching and grinding of the teeth. It also helps to prevent more wear on the surface of the teeth. The guards help relax the jaws which in the process lessen teeth grinding and clenching and therefore protects the jaw from joint problems that could eventually occur.
When a dentist prescribes and occlusal guard, it will usually take two visits for the patient to receive the finished product. A mold is made of the patient’s mouth, either all the teeth on both the top and bottom or just one or the other. This mold is then sent to a lab that will make the guards to custom fit the teeth. The second visit is for the dentist to check the fitting of the guard that was made and to explain how to wear it and how to take care of it.
The majority of people that need to use the occlusal guard only need to wear the upper guard, also called a maxillary guard. A few people will be given the lower guard, or mandibular guard. By wearing an occlusal guard, it will prevent further surface damage on teeth; lessen gum problems, release jaw tension and it will help keep teeth strong.
Sometimes it may take several weeks of wearing the occlusal guard before they feel totally comfortable to wear. After that, most users find they cannot sleep without them.
What are Occlusal Guards Made Of?
Custom made occlusal guards are made from either vinyl, resin made from heat-cured acrylic, soft acrylic or light-cured composite. The guard made from the acrylic that is heat-cured is the hardest and most durable. When making guards for children, the softer materials are more desirable because of the child’s quickly changing tooth and jaw sizes.
Where Can I Get an Occlusal Guard?
The only place to get custom fit guards is through your dentist. They take an impression of your teeth and send the resulting impression to a dental lab, which fabricates custom dental appliances.