A nightguard, also called an occlusal guard, is used to combat night time grinding or clenching. Whether conscious of it or not, this condition is present in a large portion of the population, as it is heavily influenced by stress. Additionally, night time grinding can also be a symptom of more serious airway issues such as Sleep Apnea, a potentially life threatening condition.
Sometimes a person will wake up with soreness in the teeth and/or the jaw joints. Some people may be asymptomatic but the grinding and clenching is evident in the flattening of the the natural anatomy of the teeth. Such wear patterns can be easily detected by the Dentist or the Hygienist and shown to you via intraoral photographs.
An occlusal guard is strongly recommended for people who clench or grind their teeth at night. Without an occlusal guard, wearing of the tooth surfaces and thinning of the enamel will result in shorter teeth that are at a higher risk for sensitivity and fracture. Additionally repairing teeth flattened by grinding can result in very costly treatment plans that require all teeth to be fixed at once to restore form and function.
Occlusal guards are custom made to fit your teeth, based on impressions taken by your dentist. They are made out of a hard plastic material, with a softer inner liner to hug the teeth. The guard will wear down in place of your teeth, protecting them and alleviating tooth and joint symptoms.