Dental guards, also known as night guards or occlusal splints, are oral devices designed to protect teeth from the damaging effects of bruxism (teeth grinding) and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.
While professionally fitted dental guards can provide effective protection, there is a growing concern regarding the use of over-the-counter (OTC) dental guards. In this article, we will explore the ways in which over-the-counter dental guards ruin your teeth slowly:
Table of Contents
1. Improper Fit and Comfort
OTC dental guards are mass-produced, one-size-fits-all appliances. Unlike professionally fitted guards, these generic guards do not offer a customized fit. As a result, they may not fit properly or comfortably in your mouth, leading to discomfort, difficulty speaking, and even increased salivation.
The lack of a proper fit also means they may not provide adequate protection against teeth grinding, rendering them less effective in preventing dental damage.
2. Lack of Customization
Every individual has unique dental characteristics, such as tooth alignment, bite pattern, and jaw structure. OTC dental guards fail to take these individual differences into account. Without customization, the guard may create unnecessary pressure on specific teeth or parts of the jaw, potentially causing misalignment or shifting of the teeth over time.
Moreover, OTC guards cannot address specific issues related to your jaw alignment or TMJ disorders, which require personalized treatment and guidance from a dental professional.
3. Insufficient Thickness and Cushioning
Proper protection against teeth grinding requires a dental guard with adequate thickness and cushioning. OTC guards often lack the necessary thickness to absorb the forces generated during grinding.
As a result, the guard may fail to provide effective cushioning, leading to increased wear on the teeth. Continuous grinding without proper protection can result in enamel erosion, tooth sensitivity, and even fractures or chips in the teeth.
4. Material Quality
The material used in OTC dental guards is often of inferior quality compared to those used in professionally fitted guards. Cheaper materials can be less durable, less resistant to wear and tear, and more prone to bacterial growth.
Hence, OTC guards may deteriorate more quickly, requiring frequent replacements. Moreover, the use of low-quality materials may pose a risk of allergic reactions or other adverse oral health effects.
5. Inadequate Bite Alignment
One of the critical functions of a dental guard is to promote proper bite alignment and reduce muscle tension. However, OTC guards lack the ability to address bite alignment issues effectively. Without proper guidance and adjustment from a dental professional, OTC guards may cause bite problems or create new alignment issues.
Improper bite alignment can lead to uneven wear on the teeth, jaw pain, and potential long-term damage to the temporomandibular joint.
6. Delayed Diagnosis of Underlying Issues
Bruxism and TMJ disorders can be symptoms of underlying dental or medical conditions. When relying solely on OTC dental guards, individuals may miss the opportunity to receive a proper diagnosis and address the root cause of their teeth grinding or jaw pain.
By not seeking professional guidance, potential dental or medical issues may go undetected and untreated, allowing them to worsen over time.
7. Uneven Pressure Distribution
OTC dental guards often lack the precise adjustments necessary to evenly distribute the forces generated during teeth grinding. This can result in uneven pressure on certain teeth, leading to accelerated wear and tear in those specific areas.
Over time, this can cause uneven tooth surfaces, changes in tooth height, and potential bite problems.
8. Jaw Joint Stress
OTC dental guards may not adequately address temporomandibular joint (TMJ) issues. Improper alignment and lack of customization can lead to additional stress on the jaw joints, exacerbating TMJ disorders or causing new problems.
TMJ disorders can result in jaw pain, clicking or popping sounds, difficulty in opening or closing the mouth, and even lockjaw.
9. Disrupted Tooth Positioning
The use of ill-fitting OTC dental guards can lead to gradual shifts in tooth positioning. When the guard does not provide proper support or alignment, it can exert pressure on certain teeth, causing them to move or become misaligned.
This can result in bite problems, changes in the occlusion (how the upper and lower teeth fit together), and potential orthodontic complications.
10. Oral Tissue Irritation
OTC dental guards may have rough or poorly finished edges that can irritate the soft tissues of the mouth, including the gums, cheeks, and tongue.
Continuous friction and rubbing against these tissues can lead to discomfort, sore spots, and even mouth ulcers. Irritation of the oral tissues can also increase the risk of bacterial or fungal infections in the mouth.
11. False Sense of Security
Using OTC dental guards may give individuals a false sense of security, assuming that their teeth are adequately protected. However, without proper customization and professional guidance, these guards may provide insufficient protection against grinding forces.
Individuals may continue to grind their teeth unknowingly, thinking that the guard is effectively preventing damage. This can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment of dental problems associated with bruxism.
12. Neglecting Professional Monitoring
By relying solely on OTC dental guards, individuals may neglect regular dental check-ups and professional monitoring of their oral health. Professional monitoring is crucial to detect and address any changes in tooth wear, tooth alignment, or jaw function.
Without regular dental visits, potential issues caused by teeth grinding or the use of OTC guards may go unnoticed, leading to more severe problems in the long run.
What Is the Alternative to OTC Dental Guards?
When it comes to dental guards, custom made night guards are considered the gold standard alternative to over-the-counter (OTC) options. Custom-made dental guards are designed and fabricated specifically for an individual’s unique dental structure and bruxism needs.
Custom-made night guards are created under the supervision of dental professionals who have the knowledge and expertise to assess your specific needs. They take impressions or digital scans of your teeth and jaw to create a guard that fits perfectly and provides optimal protection. This customization ensures proper alignment, even pressure distribution, and maximum comfort.
The best part is that you can order custom dental guards!
While OTC dental guards may seem like a convenient and cost-effective solution, they come with several risks and potential long-term consequences for your oral health.
Make sure to consult with a dental professional who can provide a thorough evaluation, diagnose any underlying conditions, and recommend the kind of dental guard that would be perfect for you. Remember, regardless of what you read on the internet, nothing beats dentist recommended mouthguard.