Nightguards- you either love them or hate them. These little bits of molded plastic are designed to protect teeth from the effects of nighttime grinding and also can help your jaw feel more relaxed and comfortable upon awakening in the morning. This is accomplished by preventing the teeth from gnashing on each other and thereby permitting the muscles to take a break from their 24/7 state of contracting and/or spasm.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? There’s only one problem- fully 50% of the people that I make night guards for don’t wear them. usually the reason is that it’s not comfortable, it’s feels foreign (well, duh), it makes them drool, it’s not romantic (this from my younger, more optimistic patients), they start out wearing it but it’s under their pillow or across the room when they wake up, it fell behind the headboard (my personal favorite!)…… but last week, I heard a new one- “my dog ate it”. Yes, Lilly, the black lab puppy decided that she was a little tense, what with having to sniff every blade of grass outside and chew on anything not nailed down, and thought maybe this delicious night guard might calm her down. So Jane, Lilly’s owner and the rightful owner of the night guard brought in the numerous pieces that her pooch left her (as illustrated in the picture above). I tried not to laugh too much in front of Jane but having had several Golden retrievers, I understood all too well how this could happen.
So, in the interests of providing information, here are some dos and don’ts for night guard use. DO wear it every night for maximum effectiveness. DON’T put it in the dishwasher to clean it. DO use a toothbrush in the morning to rinse off any stuff that accumulated overnight. DON’T wrap it in tissue when not in use ( I can’t tell you the number of times patients have reported missing night guards because they were accidentally thrown away). DO keep it in it’s container when not in use. DON’T wear it if it starts to cause pain in the jaw. DO call me if this ever begins to happen as it can be a change in tooth to TMJ position. And of course- DON’T let your dog use your night guard as a midnight snack!!