A night guard is a type of mouth guard that protects against grinding of the teeth at night, a condition that can also be known as bruxism. There are also some night guards that can help straighten teeth like a retainer. Several different kinds of night guards have been developed, and can be used depending on your condition and your price range. Keep in mind that night guards do not cure bruxism and that an over-the-counter soft mouth guard may provide very little protection at all.
Complete Coverage night guards cover the entire upper or lower set of teeth in the mouth. These guards do not modify the bite in any way as they simply protect the top row of teeth from grinding against the bottom row. All of the teeth come into contact with the device at once using this guard. This can be a conservative and safe choice for a night guard and it is one of the most frequently used.
Partial coverage appliances cover only the teeth that are causing the problem in the mouth. These appliances may modify your bite slightly but in letting some of the teeth contact they let the mouth properly relax the muscles used for closing. This leads to less grinding of teeth and clenching of the jaw.
Some night guards, whether they are partial coverage or complete coverage, intentionally reposition your bite. These devices are meant to make your bite less prone to the grinding problems of bruxism. The device is fitted to your teeth and then it is altered gradually by your orthodontist to move your teeth in a specific way over time.
Soft and Hard
Most prescription night guards are made of a hard acrylic material which prevents the teeth from altering the mouth guard in any way. This also makes it less likely that a patient will bite through a mouth guard over night. Soft mouth guards are also available and can be more comfortable to patients. If a patient does not have an extreme case of bruxism and only has slight teeth grinding, a soft night guard can be a more comfortable choice.
Over-the-Counter Night Guards
Some over-the-counter choices for night guards are available to help with those who may grind their teeth when sleeping. Orthodontists do not typically recommend these less expensive choices, because they have not specifically been fitted for your teeth. This may lead to a change in your bite, and may change tooth positioning as a result, which could lead to more problems down the road, so use caution.