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Grinding Teeth With Braces: Will a Night Guard Help?

8 min read
by JS Dental Lab |

If you tend to grind your teeth, there’s a good chance your dentist has recommended that you wear a night guard.

Night guards prevent grinding, which can help you sleep better and reduce pain in and around the mouth.

But if you’re a teeth grinder who also wears braces, wearing a night guard might not be the answer.

Here’s what you should know about grinding teeth with braces and wearing a night guard with braces, plus some alternative methods to help you stop grinding your teeth.

What is a Night Guard?

Also referred to as a dental guard or a mouth guard, a night guard is similar to an aligner tray that slips over your teeth. It prevents your upper teeth from direct contact with your lower teeth.

Night guards usually comprise dental-grade PETG and TPU materials and can be hard or soft. Don’t confuse these with mouth guards, which you can buy over the counter in any pharmacy or drugstore. Your dentist or specialty dental labs can custom-fit night guards for you and you alone.

Note: JS Dental is a provider of night guards, specially fitted dental appliances worn overnight to prevent or reduce teeth grinding. Mouth guards usually refer to sporting mouth guards, but they are often used interchangeably. In this article, when we say “mouth guard,” we are really referring to the night guard for teeth grinding and clenching.

How Does a Night Guard Work?

For a night guard to work correctly, it needs to fit snugly in the mouth. You can wear it on either the top or lower teeth, not usually both. 

Its primary purpose is to prevent your top teeth from touching your bottom teeth while you sleep. For the best results, you need to wear it all night, overnight, while you sleep.

The night guard is similar to the mouth guard that athletes wear while playing sports. But as we mentioned, their purpose is quite different.

Sports mouth guards absorb shock and stabilize the jaw during physical activity that could impact your teeth and/or mandible. Night guards ease bruxism.

What Is Bruxism?

Bruxism is the proper medical term for teeth grinding, gnashing, and clenching. Stress, anxiety, and tension are often contributing factors.

Though some people suffer from bruxism day and night, it is most commonly considered a sleep disorder. People who suffer from bruxism often have other sleep disorders, such as snoring and sleep apnea.

But bruxism doesn’t just cause sleep disruption; it also leads to tooth damage, tooth pain, face pain, tooth sensitivity, and severe pain in the lower jaw muscles.

Fracturing of the teeth and a sore jaw are some of the most common symptoms of bruxism, but it can also lead to headaches and affect your overall health.

Why?

Because lack of sleep can be detrimental to your mental and physical health.

Misalignment of the teeth (malocclusion) can cause bruxism in some people. In others, bruxism can cause misaligned teeth. Misaligned teeth require braces, which can often alleviate bruxism or stop it altogether.

But there aren’t any types of braces on earth that will correct an abnormal bite overnight. Braces take time to work their magic, which means you could still grind or clench your teeth while you’re waiting for your braces to shift your teeth into the proper position.

For some people, bruxism continues even after their braces have come off. 

Discover: Can a Night Guard Help With TMJ?

Can I Wear a Night Guard With Braces?

Close-up of a young woman putting in her night guard

So what should you do if you have bruxism while wearing braces?

In most cases, wearing a night guard with braces is not an option.

If you wear clear aligners, such as Invisalign braces, the answer is NO — you cannot wear a night guard with braces. Self-aligning braces must be worn 24/7 to be effective, so you cannot replace them with a night guard while you sleep.

For people with metal braces or ceramic braces, wearing a night guard with your braces is possible but rarely recommended. This is usually only an option for people who suffer from severe bruxism. For most orthodontic patients, your physician will not recommend wearing a night guard over braces.

Here’s why:

The purpose of wearing braces is to straighten your teeth. In addition to being more cosmetically appealing, straight teeth can also help relieve teeth grinding and clenching caused by teeth that aren’t in their proper positions.

The problem with wearing a night guard with braces is that the guard can damage your braces and interfere with them so that your teeth can’t move as they need to. 

Wearing a night guard that impedes the function of your braces negates the entire point of wearing braces in the first place. For this reason, most orthodontists will not recommend that you wear a night guard while you have braces.

You can buy night guards over the counter in various sizes, but it’s always best to have your dentist custom-fit a night guard that fits perfectly in your mouth. This is yet another reason why night guards and braces don’t mix.

A custom-fit night guard requires your dentist to take an impression of your mouth. The sticky material used to make that impression can stick to your braces and damage your braces — two things that no orthodontic patient wants to deal with.

Once you have braces on your teeth, it’s best to have patience and let the braces do their job without any outside interference.

The good news for people with bruxism is that braces alone can sometimes resolve it. Once your teeth align to their proper positions, you may not grind or clench at all.

Opt for a Custom Night Guard Rather Than an OTC One

Some people choose to buy an over-the-counter night guard because their physician won’t fit them for a custom one. 

If your orthodontist tells you not to wear one, don’t

They’re telling you not to wear one for a reason.

There are two types of OTC night guards:

Stock night guards and boil-and-bite night guards.

Stock night guards are typically made from plastic and come in small, medium, and large sizes. Sometimes, their manufacturers label them “one size fits all” … they’re not.

For a night guard to work, it needs to fit in your mouth correctly, which is why many people opt for the boil-and-bite version instead of the hard plastic version.

Boil-and-bite night guards are made of soft plastic materials that you soak in hot water then bite. Doing so creates more of a custom fit.

However, it can easily stick to your braces  because the material is pliable. Pressing anything malleable against your braces is just asking for trouble. With a boil-and-bite night guard, you run the risk of getting the material stuck in or on your braces.

Get a custom night guard from your orthodontist or JS Dental Lab if you still suffer from bruxism when your braces come off. Custom-fit night guards are always more effective than over-the-counter versions.

Not sure you can adjust to sleeping with a night guard? You may be surprised! Check out Our Best Tips for Sleeping With a Night Guard

Other Ways to Stop Teeth Grinding

Fruit smoothie

For many people, teeth grinding produces visual and physical evidence, such as crooked teeth, damage to the tooth’s surface, and loose teeth. But bruxism can also lead to various temporomandibular disorders (TMD), including TMJ.

While a night guard can stop you from bruxing, there are a variety of other ways to alleviate the discomfort and damage that comes with teeth grinding — ways that don’t require you to wear any additional appliance in your mouth.

Here are five ways to stop bruxism that don’t require the use of a night guard:

Stress Management 

While many factors cause and exacerbate bruxism, one of the leading causes of this teeth-clenching disorder is stress, and that’s excellent news.

Why?

Because there are all sorts of ways to reduce stress.

Here are some examples:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Learning deep breathing techniques
  • Exercising

Eating a healthy diet is one of the best ways to manage stress. Leafy greens, raw fruits, and raw veggies effectively reduce stress, as can limiting your alcohol use, caffeine intake, and amount of refined sugars.

Practicing yoga or meditation, which focus on deep-breathing techniques, is an excellent way to alleviate stress.

Deep breathing helps to decrease the heart rate and reduce tension. Deep-breathing techniques are easy to learn, making this one of the most effective ways to reduce bruxism and all sorts of other stress symptoms.

Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins, which reduces stress levels. Exercise also reduces levels of adrenaline and cortisol, which increase stress levels. 

Daily exercise offers a two-fold benefit that can help you relieve stress and anxiety, sleep better at night, and reduce your need to grind and clench your teeth.

Changes to Behavior and Positioning 

Knowing how you position your mouth and jaw is key to alleviating bruxism.

The way you position your jaw muscles affects how you set your mouth and, in turn, your teeth. Consult your dentist or orthodontist to learn how to position your jaw better, and you might be able to get rid of bruxism for good.

It’s a matter of muscle memory, so the more you practice the proper positioning for your mouth and jaw, the easier it becomes. 

Biofeedback 

How biofeedback helps relieve bruxism is not entirely clear, but there is evidence that with proper biofeedback, you’ll feel less of a need to grind and clench your teeth.

Biofeedback involves the use of electronic sensors to monitor muscle tension. In patients with bruxism, this monitoring focuses on muscle tension in the jaw.

On its own, biofeedback cannot cure or eliminate bruxism, but it is a tool to help you determine how to better control muscle tension on your own. You can apply this towards making changes in your behavior and muscle positioning.

Medications 

Because bruxism is often a result of stress and anxiety, taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications may reduce your need to grind and clench your teeth. 

Muscle relaxants that ease tension can also be effective, but you should only take them for a short time under a doctor’s supervision.

If stress management techniques and behavioral positioning changes don’t ease your need to grind, consult with your orthodontist, dentist, or primary care physician for medication options.

Addressing Underlying Medical Conditions 

In some cases, bruxism can cause other disorders. In other cases, it’s caused by an underlying medical condition.

Sleep apnea and gastroesophageal reflux disease can cause or exacerbate bruxism. If you are suffering from any bruxism-related medical disorders, treating those disorders may bring your bruxism to an end. 

Related: Is There a Homeopathic Remedy for Teeth Grinding? 

You May Still Need a Night Guard When Your Braces Come Off

Even if you suffer from mild grinding, wearing a night guard after your braces come off can be a massive benefit to your overall oral health.

Because so many external and psychological factors can cause bruxism, there’s no guarantee that braces will remedy the problem. Bruxism can cause chipped and cracked teeth, resulting in the need for dental restoration procedures down the line. 

Wearing a night guard post-braces can prevent that.

Once braces perfectly align your teeth, you’ll want to keep them that way.

If grinding and teeth clenching persists after your braces come off, a night guard can help reduce further damage and prevent other issues from arising. 

Bruxism can also cause dental abfractions, notches or lesions that develop near the gum line. The use of a night guard after your braces come off can alleviate these, too.

Conclusion

Any time you undergo an orthodontic treatment, you should heed your orthodontist’s advice. They know best.  

Bruxism can be disruptive to your oral, physical, and mental health, but there are ways to alleviate it that don’t require wearing a night guard. By reducing stress, eating right, and exercising, your need to grind and clench your teeth can be a thing of the past. 

If and when a night guard becomes part of your dental health routine, be sure to come back to JS Dental Lab. You can order a custom-made night guard right from the comforts of home. 

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