Bruxism is a behavior that is usually caused by stress and is characterized by grinding the teeth from side to side or clenching them together. Both these behaviors can occur while awake, but often occur during the night while you sleep. People who grind or clench their teeth while sleeping may wake up with headaches, experience jaw pain or soreness, and may not feel rested. Additionally, people with bruxism are often unaware that they have this condition.
During your routine dental exam, if your dentist notices certain wear patterns to indicate that you are affected by bruxism, they may advise the use of a night guard. Night guards are a type of dental bite guard that are generally only worn at night. Their main purpose is to prevent additional strain on the jaw joint and to protect the teeth from becoming chipped or cracked from grinding or clenching.
Another common reason to wear a dental bite guard is if you play sports. Certain sports, especially those that require close contact, flying equipment, or frequent falls. Bite guards used for sports are often referred to as sports mouth guards. Sports mouth guards cover the teeth and gums in order to protect the front of the mouth from becoming injured during a sports mishap. Wearing a mouth guard while playing sports can reduce dental emergencies such as loose, cracked, chipped, or knocked out teeth, as well as soft tissue trauma.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a medical condition where the muscles of the upper airway relax and obstruct the flow of oxygen. Unfortunately, many people are affected by sleep apnea. However, many people don’t consider a visit to their local dental office when they think about treating their sleep apnea. Using oral appliance therapy, your general dentist will custom fabricate a night guard that can reposition the jaw and reduce or eliminate symptoms associated with obstructive sleep apnea. When you wear this type of night guard, it moves the jaw slightly forward in order to maintain an open airway while sleeping.
Dr. John Batlle attended the UF College of Dentistry where he received his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree in 1983. After graduating, he worked for the State of Florida and received his commission in the Navy Reserve Dental Corps. He was deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 2002 where he served as the dentist for Detainee Operations and Navy Hospital GTMO. He recently retired from the U.S. Navy Reserve after 26 years of service.