What Are Occlusal Guards and Why Are They So Important? By Ann R. Sielicki, DDS on March 15, 2017

An occlusal guard for teeth grinding (bruxism)Also known a bruxism, teeth grinding is a serious dental health and general wellness problem. The condition occurs at night. When you suffer from teeth grinding, you gnash, clench, and shift your teeth, causing a great deal of strain on the jaw joint and other structures of your mouth.

The team at our Scottsdale general dentistry practice has helped numerous patients overcome teeth grinding and improve their dental health. Many times the answer to these patients' problems is an occlusal guard (aka a bite guard or a night guard). Let's delve into more details on teeth grinding and then explain how occlusal guards work.

The Causes of Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

The most common causes of teeth grinding are:

  • Poor Dental Alignment – If you have crooked teeth or are missing teeth, your bite may not be properly aligned. This means your teeth are unable to find a good resting position when you are asleep, leading to movement such as grinding.

  • Excessive Stress – If you are nervous or anxious, this stress can lead to grinding and clenching of your teeth. These problems can be exacerbated if your teeth are not properly aligned.

  • Sleep Apnea – Some research has noted a link between teeth grinding and sleep apnea, a breathing problem that affects people when they are trying to sleep.

The Dangers of Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

Teeth grinding has been linked to the following problems:

  • Tooth Fractures – Exerting regular pressure on the teeth can lead to chips, cracks, and many other serious problems.

  • Gum Recession – In addition to affecting the teeth, the stress exerted from regular grinding can lead to gum recession over time.

  • TMJ Disorders – The jaw joint can be overworked from serious teeth grinding, which can lead to locking, clicking, pain, and popping by day.

  • Fatigue – Teeth grinding can impact the overall quality of your sleep. You may not be resting as well as you can, resulting in fatigue and mental fogginess.

What Is an Occlusal Guard?

An occlusal guard is a custom mouth guard that patients wear at night. It is, in essence, a protective retainer that is custom molded to your teeth.

With an occlusal guard in place, your top row of teeth and bottom row of teeth do not come into direct contact with each other. This reduces the amount of direct stress on the teeth, and in the process eases the stress on the jaw joint, gum tissue, and other structures of the face and head.

How Effective Are Occlusal Guards?

Occlusal guards are very effective when it comes to treating teeth grinding. In fact, they're often a standard solution to teeth grinding, able to alleviate a number of different side effects and problems associated with the condition.

Occlusal Guards as Part of a Treatment Process

Occlusal guards may not be sufficient on their own to alleviate teeth grinding. Many times they are part of a combination of treatments for the condition. In addition to an occlusal guard, patients may require orthodontic care, stress relief exercises, lifestyle changes, and behavioral therapy.

During your consultation process, we can design and teeth grinding treatment plan just for you. Chances are that an occlusal guard will be involved.

Learn More About Occlusal Guards

For more information about occlusal guards and how they can help you have the healthiest smile possible, be sure to contact our cosmetic and restorative dentistry center today. The team here at Sonoran Dental Design looks forward to your visit and discussing these matters with you in greater detail.

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Dr. Ann Sielicki

Sonoran Dental Design

Sonoran Dental Design is a high-tech dental practice in Scottsdale, AZ, that prioritizes patient care and comfort. Dr. Ann Sielicki is a dentist who is highly trained and committed to continued education. Dr. Sielicki is affiliated with:

  • The American Dental Association
  • The Arizona Dental Association
  • The Central Arizona Dental Association
  • Spear Education's Advanced Continuum (Visiting Faculty Club Member)
  • Seattle Study Club (Participating Member)

We invite you to request an appointment with our practice by filling out our online form or calling (480) 419-9595.

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