You might hear the word mouthguard and think of the giant bulky things that athletes wear to protect their teeth on the field. And then imagine yourself trying to sleep in one of those and no one can blame you for not exactly being first in line to try one out for your own bedtime routine. Or maybe you’re having flashbacks to that awful headgear you had to wear with your braces when you were 13. Shudder.
But the good news is, that today’s night guards look a lot different than the mouthguards that athletes wear, and they protect your teeth and offer a host of other bedtime benefits, too.
Prevents tooth damage
First and foremost, the benefit of wearing a night guard is preventing damage to your teeth. When we sleep, a lot of us grind or clench our teeth, which can lead to worn down, chipped teeth. This grinding and wearing is called bruxism. And as your teeth continue to wear away, the enamel begins to also wear away which can lead to tooth pain and sensitivity, cavities, and issues around the roots.
Stops grinding and clenching
The constant strain on your body from your jaw muscles clenching and grinding can really take a toll on your body, whether you’re aware of it or not. If you’ve ever woken up with a stiff neck or headache and haven’t been able to pinpoint why it could be because you’ve been clenching your jaw all night. This grinding can also cause you to wake at night or not sleep as deeply. A properly fitted night guard will stop your molars from engaging and not allow you to grind your teeth at night.
Aligns your jaw properly
A properly fitted night guard (you’ll want to visit your dentist for this one), will fit into your mouth perfectly to align the jaw into a position that reduces stress, allowing your jaw and the supporting muscles to relax. This will allow your body to be able to sleep more deeply and you’ll wake up feeling more refreshed and pain-free.
When your jaw is clenched, it makes breathing difficult and that can lead to snoring. Which can be disruptive for not just your sleep but also your partner’s. When you’re not getting enough air or suffering from sleep apnea, you may not fully awaken, but your body will wake up every time it feels like you aren’t getting enough air to try to get you to breathe in again. A night guard will create more space between your jaws, letting more air in as you sleep.
There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to nighttime mouthguards; custom ones made by your dentist, boil-and-bite ones you mold to your bite at home, and basic plastic guards in a range of sizes you can find at your local pharmacy. If you have a serious case of clenching and grinding, your dentist will be your best bet on getting the most comfortable and effective nightguard but you can always start small with an over-the-counter option and work your way up. Sweet dreams!