If you saw the movie “Date Night”, you can likely recall the scene when Steve Carrel and Tina Fey are preparing for bed. In the course of their preparations, each of them inserted a night guard into their mouths. The desired affect, of course, was the humour arising from an example of how un-sexy life had become for a typical married couple well past the honeymoon stage.

We cannot pretend that night guards or bite splints are sexy! But there is also nothing particularly sexy about teeth grinding, muscle tension or sleep interfering headaches that these may prevent! Night guards or bite splints are practical tools that prevent the above events from being problem for you. Putting them in may not look sexy…but they sure can make you feel a lot better!

The question is how do you know which appliance is right for you? At Rideau Dental Centre, we can help answer that question.

Both appliances look similar. They are each custom fitted pieces of plastic or resin that fit over your teeth. However, the functions they perform are quite distinct.

The primary purpose of a night guard is to prevent you from grinding your teeth. When you grind your teeth, you are wearing away at their protective, enamel surface. This can leave your teeth susceptible to tooth decay which could require fillings or other dental treatment.

A night guard will fit over top of your teeth thereby eliminating the possibility for you to grind your teeth together. It may not eliminate the actual grinding action. But now your teeth will grind against a softer acrylic rather than other teeth. This will reduce the wear and tear you would otherwise experience on your teeth.

Some people may find a night guard is not effective for them. Perhaps they have been grinding their teeth for so many years that the shape of their teeth has changed. This may result in a change to the natural bite alignment of the teeth and/or jaw.

Other factors can also cause this misalignment. For example, the problem may be genetic in that their jaw or teeth are poorly shaped. Accidents causing tooth loss can come into play as well.

Regardless as to the cause, problems with jaw alignment can prevent the muscles of the jaw from relaxing. The constant pressure this creates can cause tension headaches and may impact upon the quality of your sleep.

In such cases, a night guard will not be sufficient. You may actually require a bite splint. Like night guards, bite splints are also custom fitted. But they do not simply slip on top of your teeth. When properly fitted and inserted, they will actually change the alignment of your jaw. The ultimate goal in doing this is to reduce the tension on the jaw muscles, which can also reduce any tendency to grind your teeth as well.

It may take a few more trips to the dentist in order to ensure that the bite splint is functioning properly. And we know that neither a bite splint nor a night guard will look particularly sexy! But if they prevent you from grinding your teeth and allow you to have a good night sleep, that just may make you feel pretty sexy!

Because waking up feeling good (and sexy!) is a healthy habit…and healthy habits lead to healthy lives.

Dr. David Lui

Dental Surgeon