An occlusal guard, also known as a night guard or bite splint, is a custom-made oral appliance used to protect the teeth and jaw from the harmful effects of bruxism (teeth grinding) and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.
Why would I need an occlusal guard?
There are several reasons you may need an occlusal guard, such as:
Bruxism: If you grind or clench your teeth, especially during sleep, you may experience excessive wear and tear on your teeth, as well as jaw pain, headaches, and muscle tension. An occlusal guard provides a protective barrier between the upper and lower teeth, preventing them from coming into direct contact and reducing the damaging effects of bruxism on the teeth and jaw joints.
TMJ Disorders: Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ disorders) can cause pain, stiffness, and dysfunction in the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. An occlusal guard can help alleviate symptoms of TMJ disorders by promoting proper jaw alignment, reducing muscle tension, and providing cushioning and support to the jaw joint.
Tooth Wear: Individuals with a history of tooth wear, such as erosion, abrasion, or attrition, may benefit from wearing an occlusal guard to protect their teeth from further damage. The guard helps distribute the forces of chewing and grinding more evenly across the teeth, reducing the risk of excessive wear on specific teeth or dental restorations.
Orthodontic Treatment: Patients undergoing orthodontic treatment (such as braces or clear aligners) may wear an occlusal guard to protect their teeth and orthodontic appliances from damage caused by grinding or clenching. The guard helps maintain the stability of the orthodontic treatment and prevents unintended movement or displacement of the teeth.
Sports Protection: Athletes involved in contact sports or activities that carry a risk of dental trauma (such as football, basketball, or martial arts) may wear an occlusal guard to protect their teeth from injury. Sports guards, also known as mouthguards, are custom-made occlusal guards designed to absorb and distribute the forces of impact, reducing the risk of broken teeth, lacerations, and other oral injuries.
Stress Management: Stress and anxiety can contribute to bruxism and TMJ disorders, leading to increased muscle tension and jaw clenching. An occlusal guard can help alleviate symptoms of stress-related bruxism by providing a physical barrier between the teeth and preventing unconscious grinding or clenching during periods of stress or anxiety.
If you believe you may benefit from an occlusal guard, consult with Dr. Lemons for evaluation and appropriate recommendations. A custom-made occlusal guard can be fabricated to fit your teeth and jaw properly, providing optimal protection and comfort for your oral health needs.
Is it covered by my insurance?
Whether occlusal guards are covered by insurance can vary depending on the specific insurance plan and the reason for needing the occlusal guard. Before getting an occlusal guard, it's essential to contact your insurance provider to verify coverage and understand any applicable limitations, exclusions, or out-of-pocket costs. At Lemons Dental, we can also assist you in navigating the insurance process and determining the best course of action for obtaining the necessary treatment.
What to expect with your new occlusal guard
There are some things to know moving forward with a new occlusal guard.
Cleaning: Before and after each use, clean the occlusal guard thoroughly with a toothbrush and mild soap or non-abrasive toothpaste. Rinse it well with warm water to remove any soap residue. Avoid using hot water, harsh chemicals, or abrasive cleaners, as they may damage the guard.
Insertion: To insert the occlusal guard, carefully position it over your upper teeth. Press the guard into place using your fingers, ensuring that it covers all your upper teeth comfortably. Make sure the guard fits securely and does not interfere with your bite or speech.
Wear Schedule: Follow Dr. Lemons' recommendations regarding when and how long to wear the occlusal guard. In most cases, the guard is worn at night while sleeping to protect against teeth grinding and clenching. Some individuals may also wear the guard during the day if they experience daytime bruxism or jaw clenching.
Adjustment Period: It may take some time to adjust to wearing an occlusal guard, especially if it feels bulky or unfamiliar at first. Give yourself time to adapt to the sensation of wearing the guard, and gradually increase the duration of wear as you become more comfortable with it.
Maintenance: Store the occlusal guard in its protective case when not in use to prevent damage, loss, or contamination. Keep the guard away from pets, children, and extreme temperatures. Avoid exposing the guard to direct sunlight, as prolonged exposure may degrade the material.
Regular Check-ups: Schedule regular dental check-ups with Dr. Lemons to monitor the condition of the occlusal guard and assess its effectiveness in protecting your teeth and jaw. Dr. Lemons may recommend periodic adjustments or replacement of the guard as needed to maintain optimal fit and function.
Replacement: Over time, occlusal guards may become worn, damaged, or lose their effectiveness. Replace the guard as recommended by Dr. Lemons to ensure continued protection of your teeth and jaw.
Symptom Monitoring: Pay attention to any changes in your symptoms or oral health while wearing the occlusal guard. If you experience persistent pain, discomfort, or other issues, contact our office for evaluation and appropriate management.
Proper maintenance and regular dental care are essential for maximizing the benefits of the occlusal guard and protecting your oral health.