Temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJ as it’s more commonly known, can be a real pain to live with. The conscious, sub-conscious, or unconscious grinding and clenching of the teeth can lead to a sore jaw, headaches, sensitive teeth, and other uncomfortable symptoms. While you may be able to control jaw movements while you are awake, you may still be grinding or clenching while you sleep. If you wake up with any of the above listed symptoms on a regular basis, this may be what is happening. In this case, you may consider getting a night guard to help prevent further damage and treat the chronic issue once and for all.
Benefits of a Night Guard
The biggest benefit of wearing a night guard is the reduction in pain and headaches. Since the guard prevents contact between the teeth, they have no chance of grinding each other. This reduces the risk of chipped or damaged teeth and will help with sensitivity issues as well. Oftentimes grinding can wear down the enamel on the teeth, which cannot be restored. Wearing a night guard prevents this wearing down from occurring as rapidly. Night guards also reduce the chance of clenching.
Night guards that are molded for you by an orthodontist will specifically align your jaw to reduce pain symptoms. The jaw will sit in a natural position that doesn’t put strain on the bone or muscles encasing the jaw. A more relaxed jaw will lead to a better night’s rest and healthier sleep patterns. Those who wear night guards find they don’t toss and turn as much trying to find a comfortable position for their jaw.
Over-the-Counter Night Guards vs Professionally Molded Night Guards
Some patients may be tempted to purchase an over-the-counter night guard to save on the overall cost. However, there are many drawbacks to these designs. Some designs are poorly made and will barely last a month for an aggressive grinder. Repeat purchases can push this option to actually be more expensive than professionally molded night guards in the long run. Other over-the-counter night guards may be uncomfortable or rest the jaw in an unnatural way, which can lead to even more oral complications after extended use. A professionally made night guard will provide the best comfort and most customizability, so it doesn’t feel awkward or bulky in the mouth. These should also last a very long time, with most users reporting at least 10 years or more.
A night guard may take a few nights to get used to, but consistent wearing is the best way to treat TMJ, tooth sensitivity, the wearing of enamel, and any other negative symptom you experience. To optimize the benefits of the night guard, you may also try reducing your TMJ symptoms with stress management, decreasing caffeine intake, and/or other orthodontic procedures that can help straighten teeth and realign the jaw. TMJ is manageable with the right tools. Talk to your orthodontist today about getting fitted for a night guard and start your road to recovery.