Nightguards (also called bite splints or occlusal splints) are removable dental appliances usually molded to fit the upper arch of teeth and are typically worn when sleeping.
Nightguards protect teeth and dental restorations from grinding stresses and help with TMJ problems by stabilizing the jaw joints. A great many people are nocturnal bruxers, clenching and grinding when they sleep (most people actually have no clue that they are bruxers). This bruxing can exert tremendous force upon the teeth causing receding gums, severe wearing of the teeth, sore jaw muscles, TMJ joint problems, and breaking of dental restorations. Nightguards buffer these extreme forces, balance the bite, and shield the teeth from damage.
Also, for the older population, many people are living much longer and have coped with stressful lives to the point that many have worn down their teeth. Once someone has worn down the hard enamel outer surface of the teeth, the softer inside dentin then wears down much more rapidly.
The cheapest type of nightguards are the ones purchased at stores. However, these are much bulkier and not as comfortable as the dental office custom-made nightguards. Also, it is very important to have the nightguard balanced to the person’s bite and excursive jaw movements to prevent migration of the teeth and jaw joint damage. Therefore, it is always best to wear a custom-made nightguard fabricated from the dentist.
Sometimes it may take a week to acclimate to wearing a nightguard. Many people then express that the nightguard helps them experience a more profound sleep (since bruxing leads to a less restful sleep). The nightguard also helps decrease snoring, although for moderate sleep apnea, a different appliance is recommended.