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Night Guards and Mouthguards:
The Difference

Many patients often wonder what is the difference between night guards and mouthguards. Both these devices serve a similar purpose, acting as a protective barrier, but they both function in very different ways.


A night guard helps to protect your teeth if you have a habit of grinding them together while you are asleep. A mouthguard or sports guard protects teeth during physical activities like football or boxing. Dentists often recommend mouthguards to athletes and active adults.


Both contact sports and grinding your teeth can put you at high risk for tooth fractures and other oral health issues, which is why we offer personalized consultations at our practice in Weehawken. We can create custom-designed and fitted mouthguards and night guards for patients.

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Why Do You Need a Night Guard or Mouthguard If You Grind Your Teeth?

Grinding your teeth at night when you are asleep is not always a sign you are stressed. You may be experiencing a condition called bruxism, which can lead to a number of symptoms that can have an impact on your oral health and the strength of your teeth.


Common symptoms of teeth grinding include:

  • Worn tooth enamel

  • Sensitive teeth

  • Jaw pain

  • Tired or tight jaw muscles

  • Headaches upon waking

  • Sleep disruption

Typically, patients become aware they are grinding their teeth when they wake up and have stiffness in their jaw. The symptoms often occur during sleep and can be caused by an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth. Bruxism can also be caused by a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.


Many patients are not diagnosed with the condition until they come in to see a dentist when they have a checkup. Symptoms include worn tooth enamel, particularly in the back teeth area.


We have also had some patients who realize they have bruxism because their teeth grinding is loud enough to wake their partner from their sleep. Concerned about why they may be unwittingly experiencing these symptoms, they are prompted to see a dentist for an appointment.


At Skyline Dental Designs we can treat the symptoms of bruxism by creating a custom-fitted mouthguard or night guard which you can wear when you are asleep to form a barrier between your teeth.

Custom Designed Night Guards

Nighttime teeth grinding can cause severe dental damage because over time, grinding your teeth can destroy tooth enamel and trigger gum erosion. Without treatment, the damage can progress, and may lead to surgery. Night guards can help protect your teeth from permanent dental damage if you have bruxism.

Night Guards as a Dental Treatment

Night guards can be used to treat TMJ as well as bruxism and sleep apnea, by protecting teeth and easing pressure in the jaw. These devices also guard the teeth against chips and uneven wear patterns that may often result from jaw clenching. By wearing a night guard, you can experience relief from jaw pain, headaches, stiff neck and neck soreness.

TMJ

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the jaw to the skull. Nighttime grinding or clenching often lead to TMJ disorders, including stubborn headaches and neck pain. Night guards are a simple method for preventing or treating TMJ problems.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea develops when patients stop breathing for brief periods during the night. During sleep, when throat and tongue muscles are more relaxed, this soft tissue can cause the airway to become blocked. Airflow may become blocked due to the placement of the jaw and tongue. A specially-designed night guard for sleep apnea can help to realign the jaw, relieving some sleep apnea symptoms which may result in the difficulty to breathe.

Benefits of a Night Guard

When you clench and grind your teeth, it may put you at a higher risk of developing cavities, tooth sensitivity, or gum erosion. When you are exhibiting the symptoms of bruxism you can also develop chipped teeth or muscle tension.


Many of our patients who grind their teeth say they have headaches, neck pain, and restless sleep. However, using one of our custom-made night guards may help to alleviate their symptoms so they can sleep more soundly.

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Benefits of a Custom Mouthguard

The American Dental Association estimates that sports mouthguards can prevent over 200,000 injuries. Mouthguards can help to protect you or your child from sports injuries and chipped or cracked teeth.


“Boil and bite” mouthguards can often be found in stores, but they often cause harm instead of provide protection. They do not offer a custom fit like professional mouth guards. Typically, they can fall out or make it more difficult to speak while wearing them. They can cause jaw pain and may not be as comfortable as custom professional mouthguards. By contrast, our custom, professional sports guards are properly fitted and equilibrated for your protection.


The benefits of professional sports mouthguards include:

  • Protection from tooth loss

  • Reduced chance of concussion

  • Protection of dental work from damage

  • Secure and stable fit

Professional mouthguards can help prevent the need for restorative dental care later in life. At Skyline Dental Designs in Weehawken, we can tailor your mouthguard to fit your teeth perfectly, lessening the possibility of the need for dental work due to chips and injury.

How to Care for Your Night Guard, Mouthguard or Sports Guard

Night guards and mouthguards can be a valuable tool when it comes to protecting your teeth from the harsh effects of grinding or clenching. Sports guards offer great protection when playing contact sports to keep you from damaging your teeth.


Caring for your night guard or sports guard is important so you can continue to protect your teeth for as long as possible. In addition to your typical daily oral health routine of regular brushing and flossing, you need to incorporate cleaning your night guard regularly. You should also keep your sports guard clean between uses.


Each time you wear either your night guard or your sports guard, rinse it with warm water as soon as you remove it from your mouth.

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Any debris or plaque that may have been stuck will come loose. Then use your toothbrush to brush your guard; there is no need to use toothpaste as it can be abrasive and may scratch your night guard or sports guard, causing unnecessary wear and tear.


You can use dish soap as it acts like a cleanser for your guard. Once you have finished your cleaning, lay it to dry completely. By letting the surfaces air dry for up to 30 minutes, you can prevent bacterial growth.


Do not store your night guard or mouthguard out in the open — in the bathroom, for example, as the humidity can damage the surface and cause it to warp. Keeping your guard in a case is the best method to ensure it stays protected and dry. We will provide a vented, durable case with your mouthguard. Be careful not to store your night guard anywhere subject to extreme hot or cold temperatures as this can also damage the surface.


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