Guardians of the night

Recently here at Farrell Family Dentistry, we’ve been experiencing a number of complaints about ZOOM whitening. Everyone is happy with the immediate results; however, once they get home the real problem begins. A lot of times their significant other is finding them more attractive – much more attractive. At first, I didn’t understand why this was a problem, but the increased attention is not something these patients are prepared to deal with. With no other place to turn, they have been asking me, “How do I prevent this unwanted attention?” While I am an expert in making my other half disinterested in me, there’s a solution within the dental field that is guaranteed to work. I am, of course, referring to the dental night guard.

It is often mentioned that there is nothing less mood-inducing than someone putting in a night guard as they slip into bed at night. Aside from killing the mood, a night guard serves a number of very important and much-underrated functions.

A night guard is a device made of hard acrylic plastic on the outside which can be lined with a softer material on the inside, compared to a sports mouth guard that is made only of a softer material and no hard acrylic. It is designed to be worn at night, which is when people are most prone to clench or grind their teeth (also known as bruxism).

The main function of a night guard is to act as a barrier between the top and bottom teeth so that when a patient grinds their teeth, the forces are being imparted on the night guard instead of the imposing dentition. A common analogy I like to use is that a night guard acts very similar to a boat buoy. You have an expensive boat and an expensive dock that you don’t want crashing into one another. The buoy acts as a safeguard in the way that a night guard does; it buffers your very expensive top teeth from grinding down your very expensive bottom teeth. In addition to slowly wearing down the enamel on your teeth causing them to appear flat and unattractive, the constant grinding will lead to extensive fractures or even to teeth breaking entirely.     

An easy way to tell if somebody is excessively grinding is if the incisal edges of their teeth are all the same length and are square-shaped. Former skateboarder and current TV show host Rob Dyrdek is a classic case of this. George Clooney also had this look before getting veneers. All the excessive clenching and grinding can also affect the overall shape of your face. The masseter muscles are constantly contracting while you grind, causing hypertrophy (a fancy word for increase in the size of) leading to a more rounded appearance of the face. 

It is best for a dentist to make a custom night guard, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all drug store night guard. With a custom night guard, very accurate dental impressions are made so that it is comfortable and fits properly. If it is not the correct size or fit, it will be difficult to sleep in.  However, if you find a drugstore night guards helpful please make sure to let me know. You will be the first person in over 10 years that has actually been able to sleep in one of those asphyxiation devices.

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