A Dental Night Guard, also known as an oral splint, is a method, albeit controversial, of preventing the damage of grinding teeth. Grinding one’s teeth, and/or clenching the jaw is known as bruxism. Bruxism can occur day or night, but is much more difficult to control the teeth grinding that occurs at night. A Dental Night Guard is used to help prevent the damage to the teeth, and sometimes correct the behaviors that lead to bruxism. There is controversy behind the use of a dental night guard because the mechanism by which they work is not well understood. It is not known if the change in jaw position, the modification of the behaviors that lead to teeth clenching and grinding, or a muscular component is a factor. The studies prove there is statistically improvement with the condition, just not the mechanisms.

A variety of Dental Night Guards are available to purchase, but there are a number of things that one should take under consideration before purchasing one. Material, fit, and bite pad are the three main considerations.

A Dental night guard can be made from either acrylic or plastic. The acrylic type is made from the same material that is used to make dentures. This type is not as flexible as the plastic type, which makes them more effective than the plastic type. However, they are more expensive.

Fit is the next consideration when looking for dental night guards. Guards that are available over the counter have fit profiles that are based on the height of an individual. A small guard is made for individuals who are less than 5’6”. Medium guards for people over 5’8”, and large sizes are for those taller than 5’8”. Problem is, these mouth guards are not terribly effective, and their lack of individual fit can make them more uncomfortable and problematic than they are useful. Custom-made dental night guards are made by a dentist specifically for each individual. The dentist makes a mold of a patient’s mouth, and uses that mold to create a custom fit dental mouth guard.
Some dental night guards are equipped with a front band. This prevents the guard from loosening up at the front when one bites down in the back. A well fit guard should not have such a problem with this, but a front band is helpful.
The quality of the bite pad of the dental night guard makes a difference for the comfort, stability, and durability of the appliance. The most comfortable and durable dental night guards are custom-made by a dentist.
Dr. Nahel Yanni in his East Brunswick, NJ cosmetic and sedation dentistry practice, is happy to consult with new patients about bruxism and temporomandibular joint disorders, and the use of a dental night guard or oral splint in the treatment of them.