Here's What to Know About Using a Night Guard

So your dentist just advised you to start wearing a night guard. Now what? Here are five things you should know about properly using your new device.

If your dentist has prescribed a night guard, it’s important to use it.

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Night guards are prescribed to folks who regularly grind or clench their teeth at night. (The technical term for nighttime grinding is “bruxism.”) These habits typically arise during times of stress or as a result of sleep apnea or certain medications.

When left unchecked, frequent grinding or clenching can result in a number of negative oral health consequences. For example, grinding wears down the teeth’s protective enamel layer, which can increase the risk of cavities and other dental health issues. Meanwhile, clenching can result in chipped or cracked teeth and places tremendous pressure on the jaw, which can lead to jaw and head aches.

While night guards won’t prevent these habits, they do offer a protective layer that cushions your teeth against the wear and tear that otherwise result from grinding or clenching. Wearing a night guard on a regular basis can reduce damage to the teeth and dental appliances, minimize jaw aches and morning headaches, and promote more restful sleep. For these reasons, it’s important to take a night guard prescription seriously.

It’s helpful to invest in a custom fit.

No two mouths are exactly the same, so it makes sense that a generic night guard is less likely to fit comfortably in your mouth than one that is customized to your unique bite. A properly fitted night guard is more likely to support healthy alignment in your mouth, avoid damaging your gums, and last longer. For these reasons, it’s well worth investing in a custom fitted night guard if you have the funds to do so. At Rifkin Dental, we customize night guards to each patient’s individual bite.

Adjusting to your night guard can take time.

It’s not uncommon for it to take a few weeks (or even a month or more) for folks to adjust to wearing a night guard at night. If it feels uncomfortable or distracting in the beginning, know that this is normal and you’re likely to adjust to it over time. If you’ve been using your night guard for several weeks and you still feel that it’s interfering with your ability to get a good night’s sleep, then it’s time to talk to your dentist about different strategies or other treatment options.

One trick that may help you adjust to wearing your night guard more quickly is to practice putting it in for short periods of time during the day. Wearing the night guard for short intervals as you go about your daily routine can help you ease into using it for entire nights at a time.

It’s important to keep your night guard clean.

Practicing proper hygiene with your night guard will help ensure your mouth isn’t needlessly exposed to potentially harmful bacteria. To that end, adopt the following practices:

  • Rinse your night guard after every use. This will loosen any debris that may have made its way onto the night guard while you slept.
  • After rinsing, lightly brush the night guard with a toothbrush. There’s no need to use toothpaste; the bristles are all that’s needed to remove any leftover plaque or debris (and some toothpastes may be too abrasive for the night guard).
  • Let your night guard dry completely before returning it to its case. After rinsing and brushing the night guard, set it in a clean area until it’s fully dry. Only then should you store it in its case. Storing a damp or wet night guard in the case will promote bacterial growth, which undermines your hygiene efforts.
  • Make sure you’re keeping the night guard’s case clean. A clean night guard won’t do you much good if it’s stored in a dirty case. For this reason, it’s important to handwash the case a few times a week.

It’s a good idea to bring your night guard to your dental appointments.

Bringing your night guard to your regular dental appointments provides your dentist with an opportunity to make sure your night guard is still in working order. They’ll inspect it for signs of wear and tear and can double-check that the night guard is continuing to fit well in your mouth.

While it might feel uncomfortable at first to sleep with a night guard, it’s important to give it a chance. Wearing a night guard can protect your oral health for years to come, so it’s well worth learning how to use one properly and committing to its regular use.