The causes and effects of teeth grinding can be mild to severe and temporary to ongoing. However, it is widely noted that using a night guard can alleviate the discomfort and damage caused by grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw at night. If you have decided to purchase a night guard, then the next decision is whether is should be a hard or soft material.
A hard night guard is better than a soft night guard:
Quite simply, a soft night guard is an exaggerated version of chewing gum, as the jaw naturally wants to chew anything that is soft and therefore amplifies the occurrence and severity of teeth grinding (bruxism). Though soft night guards will provide protection to your teeth, they will also engage the jaw muscles/joints that you are wanting to disengage to lessen the severity. In contrast, hard night guards encourage your lower teeth to move freely if a grinding motion is present, which reduces the need for the muscles to engage. A study by al-Quran, F.A. and M.F. Lyons, The immediate effect of hard and soft splints on the EMG activity of the masseter and temporalis muscles. J Oral Rehabil, 1999. 26(7): p. 559-63 used EMG muscle activity as a control measure and concluded that a soft splint increased EMG activity, while a hard splint was able to decrease EMG muscle activity.
Is a hard night guard the right choice for you?
A material that is hard and not flexible can obviously can some time to get used to; however, the purpose and benefits of a hard night guard will provide a better solution for teeth grinding. View our recommendation below:
- Choose a hard night guard that can be custom fit to your teeth. It will offer greater protection and be more comfortable.
- A custom fit night guard will allow you to 'imprint' your upper and lower teeth to maintain the correct bite position for your jaw.
- Use a ‘thin’ hard night guard (particularly for first time night guard users). A bulky night guard will feel uncomfortable and may change your breathing habits (eg. becoming a mouth breather).
- A remouldable hard night guard may be an ideal solution, as it means you can take multiple attempts to find the right fit. A person will quite often fit a night guard too tightly on their first attempt and will want to adjust.
- Consider your air flow and saliva movement. This is a subconscious action during sleep, so a hard night guard that allows for natural air and saliva movement will improve your sleep quality when you have the night guard in place. Saliva movement is also important to neutralise acids and prevent plaque build up.