Should I be wearing a night guard? Everything you need to know.

I’m sure you’ve arrived on this post for one of two reasons. The first is because you have been told by your dentist or a close acquaintance that you need to wear a night guard. The second is because you know you are grinding your teeth at night and you’re curious as to if a night guard can save your teeth before they become problematic.

We believe this skepticism toward night guards is justified: Most individuals don’t quite understand whether or not they actually provide benefit and if night guards are a necessity! Which leads you to this post, posing the question to yourself of: “Do I really need to wear a night guard?”

The simple answer is… Probably. Our team here at Phan Family Dentistry can’t definitively tell you yes or no simply in a blog post because, well, everyone’s case is different.

What we can say here is that most residents in Northern Virginia and D.C live a life that involves higher stress levels than of the rest of America. Higher stress levels have shown to be directly correlated with jaw clenching and teeth grinding – Are you picturing yourself behind that slow driver on I-395 or sitting for an hour at the DMV to register your car? Stress leads to involuntary clenching and that clenching or grinding often-times returns as you sleep – without you even knowing it.

So you may need a night guard, and you may not. As a leading family dentistry office in Alexandria, we’re here to tell you the facts about night guards so you can decide whether you want to invest in one or not. Although we recommend you come in and discuss it with us here at the office, let’s get into the facts about night guards are and what purpose they can serve.

What exactly is a night guard?

What is a night guard

A night guard is a device that is placed inside the mouth, along the upper or lower arch, which helps stop the effects of clenching and grinding. Grinding is when a person moves the surface of their teeth across each other, while clenching is biting down very hard for a long duration of time. Both acts cause deterioration at the surface of your teeth, causing them to lose height over time. When a night guard is inserted, the device provides a layer of protection between the surfaces of your teeth and doesn’t allow them to touch one another.

The device is custom fitted to your upper or lower arch to ensure once it’s inserted that it remains in a fixed position throughout the night. Night guards oftentimes go by different names as well such as bite guards, occlusal guards, or occlusal splints. All of them refer to the same type of devices, which serve the purpose of protecting your teeth while you rest.

What are the benefits of wearing a night guard?

Benefits of wearing a night guard

Wearing a night guard has many benefits to it. One of the obvious ones is to reduce the grinding down of your teeth that happens when most people sleep. Most individuals grind their teeth in their sleep and a large percentage of them don’t even know it. By wearing a night guard, you protect you teeth from surface abrasion that takes place when you sleep without one.

Another very large benefit to night guards which many people do not know is their ability to reduce TMJ related issues. Often times TMJ pain and discomfort stems from long durations of clenching your teeth together. If you are experiencing TMJ pain and feel as if you don’t clench your teeth throughout the day, you may want to give us a call, because you are likely doing it at night when you’re unaware of it happening. Specially crafted night guards that allow for added comfort and pliability can relieve some of that pain by giving your teeth a gentle surface to clench on when you’re asleep.

If you decide to come into our office and get fitted for a night guard, we’ll first want to make sure you will benefit from wearing one. That’s why we take great pride in the way we examine our patients. We will closely look at the surfaces of your teeth to determine if there is wearing down. If we can identify there is surface abrasion taking place, we’ll want to make sure you get fitted properly for a night guard that will benefit you in the long-term. If your enamel wears down, that is something that won’t ever return, so it’s important to protect it the very best we can.

Does wearing a night guard hurt?Does wearing a night guard hurt

Absolutely not! Wearing a properly fitted, professionally made, night guard will not hurt you to wear. In fact, most are quite comfortable to wear once you get used to it.

There’s no denying it will take a few nights for you to adjust to the feeling of having it in, but it will not hurt you to wear. The night guards that are created for you aren’t designed to reshape or move your teeth – only protect them – so no pain will be felt. Depending on the type of night guard provided to you, you may slur your speech a bit when wearing it but there won’t be any pain.

Why not just get a cheap night guard from the store?Boxed night guard

You may see the advertisements on the television, or perhaps see your local store selling a discounted version of a “night guard,” but you really want to be careful purchasing one of those.

Many of the out-of-the-box versions of night guards are very poorly made. The low-end quality of these products means that the product itself won’t last very long. If you are an aggressive grinder at night and purchase a cheap night guard from the store, it will likely last you less than a month. The materials they are made out of are not intended to last for a long period of time – so you return to the store to purchase another one! With a professionally created one, custom to your biting patterns, we can ensure that your night guard lasts you significantly longer. Some of our patients who received their night guards many years ago still use them to this day!

Another concern we as a dental group have with the boxed night guards is their occlusal levels. When a patient comes into our office to be fitted for a night guard, we ensure that the night guard will fit your bite properly. Night guards purchased online or in a store have no way to properly fit your bite and may cause serious complications after extended use. We have seen many cases where people began having painful TMJ issues stemming from these night guards. An ill-fitting night guard can actually adverse effects on your oral health by causing a change in your bite that will cause pain in your jaw. We always advise if you’re considering purchasing one to come see us and discuss it first!

Dr. Phuong Phan of Phan Family Dentistry offers gentle family dentistry to all her patients in Alexandria, VA.

If you’re looking to avoid costly procedures in the future when your enamel is worn down, a night guard is the recommended place to start. Grinding and bruxism is the leading cause for root canals so make sure you protect your teeth when they need it most – at nighttime.

If you’re interested in coming in for our team to take a look at your teeth, contact us today at Phan Family Dentistry of Alexandria, Virginia. We take care of many families in the area and would love to do the same for you.


    1. Phan Family Dentistry

      Hey Pete! The cost varies as we factor in insurance coverage as well. If you’re experiencing issues with grinding your teeth at night, we’d love to have you visit the office so we can provide you an accurate estimate!

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