“Why do I need an occlusal guard?”

After your last dental check-up, your dentist mentioned to you that you might benefit from an occlusal guard. But he didn’t tell you what it was or why it would be a good idea for you.  So you’re left looking at your insurance and your finances wondering, do I really need this?

There are many reasons you might respond well to treatment with an occlusal guard, but the main reason is bruxism, or grinding of the teeth. It can cause excessive wear on your enamel, tightness of your jaw muscles, painful activation of the nerves in the face, head, and neck. So what happens when you add an occlusal guard to that equation?

    1. The occlusal guard provides a cushion for your teeth. Tooth enamel is extremely hard.  When you constantly grind one tooth against another, the hard material of one tooth will wear away the enamel of the tooth it presses and scrapes against. Think about what happens to tough food that you chew it. It gets broken down! The same thing will happen to your teeth under the pressure of your powerful jaw muscles: they wear away and even break your restorative work (like crowns and fillings.) When you begin treatment with a guard, the teeth can no longer grate against each other, and the pressure from your jaw is absorbed by the appliance. No more wear and tear on your teeth- from bruxism at least.


    1. The occlusal guard relaxes your jaw. Your teeth are meant to slide over each other, and not lock together tightly. When you grind, your jaw muscles tighten and cause tension around them. If you suffer from temporomandibular disorder (TMD), bruxism may worsen its effects.  The occlusal guard allows your jaw some cushion and slip, preventing it from suffering internal joint damage.


    1. The occlusal guard may prevent pain. As the jaw muscles clench, they activate nerves in the face, neck and head, triggering tension and even migraine headaches. With the guard in place, the jaw cannot tighten enough to prompt the nerve response causing the headache.  No headache means the freedom to work, play, and live the way you planned to!


    1. Wear it for sleep or work. Most patients find using the occlusal guard at night is the best option, but it depends on when you grind your teeth. Over the course of a few days, try to be conscious of when your jaw and teeth are clenched.  You might find that wearing the guard at work or during the day helps too!

If a dentist tells you that you need a treatment but doesn’t explain why, you should always feel comfortable asking that question yourself. “Why do you think this I need this treatment?” Follow it up with “How much will it cost me?” and “Does my insurance cover this?” At Raleigh Dental Arts, we will always give you the answer to those questions before you need to ask them! Dr. Agarwal is committed to providing his patients all the information they need to make the best choices possible for their treatment.


Tarun Agarwal

Dr. Tarun Agarwal, DDS is considered one of the top dentists in the country. He is a recognized speaker, author, and dental leader. He has been featured on CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and News 14 Carolina. Dr. Agarwal has been awarded '40 under 40' Business Leaders by the Triangle Business Journal. He is regularly invited to teach other dentists around the world and recently built a training center within the practice dedicated to sharing his expertise. Most importantly he is a loving husband and dedicated father of three wonderful children. His biggest accolade was being voted 'Best Dad in the World' by 2 of his 3 kids.