How Bite Guards Help

bite guardWe have all seen athletes wearing colorful bite guards to protect their teeth. It makes a lot of sense to protect teeth from damage during contact sports such as football, or to avoid breakage from a flying hockey puck. But why should you wear a bite guard at home, while you sleep? Most people grind or clench their teeth during sleep, even if they are not aware of it. During REM sleep (rapid eye movement stage), most muscles in the body are relaxed, except the jaw muscles and eye muscles. Many people also clench their teeth while awake, in stressful circumstances. This clenching and grinding (also called “bruxing”) can cause damage to the teeth and the bone around them. The amount of grinding and clenching a person does depends on many factors, such as personality type, how their teeth fit together, life stressors, and even what medications they take.

Who would benefit from a bite guard? Just about everyone, in our experience, but some people with excessively worn teeth can especially benefit. Bite guards help prevent cracking, wear, and breakage of teeth. They also prevent gradual bone loss from extra forces on individual teeth, by distributing pressure evenly. Tight jaw muscles can also benefit from bite guards, and many people sleep better when they wear one. This is why they are used by people with “TMJ” syndrome, with damage in or around the joints that allow opening and closing of the jaw.

What is the cost of a bite guard? Over the counter or “boil and bite” guards can be purchased inexpensively at drug stores. Most dentists do not recommend these, however, because the softness of the material can make you clench even more. But they do keep your teeth apart and can be helpful for some individuals. Custom-made bite guards can cost several hundred dollars, but they fit much more accurately and are more effective. The price is due to the materials and time involved in taking impressions of the teeth, having a laboratory fabricate the guard, and having the dentist or staff adjust the guard for a proper, even fit. If you consider the cost of a crown on a tooth, or a dental implant, a bite guard is a wise investment.

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