How It’s Made: Night Guard

Plastic mouth guard, used to treat and avoid bruxism (teeth grinding)

I have an embarrassing secret: I grind my teeth in my sleep. I don’t snore or have sleep apnea – but with the pressures of work, friends, family, pets and other hobbies, I get pretty stressed out! And grinding at night or during the day can be a result of that stress.

Fortunately I’m not alone. About 10% of people grind their teeth habitually and doctors call this condition bruxism. Grinding your teeth can ruin enamel, increase tooth sensitivity and chip your teeth. And too much grinding and clenching of the jaw can result in a condition of the jaw called TMJ, which can sometimes require surgery.

If you’re a busy person like me, and especially if you’ve been noticing jaw pain, it might be time to invest in what’s called a night guard, or more formally an occlusal guard.

What is a Night Guard?

A night guard is a removable, custom-fit device made of plastic that is placed on the upper or lower teeth to prevent grinding and clenching. Night guards re-establish the natural space between your upper and lower teeth and can even help you break your grinding habits altogether.

How is a Night Guard made?

I recently took a trip to the Denture Care Center in LaGrange, Kentucky, to visit Phil Mortenson, who is more than just a denture expert – he’s also an expert in night guards, mini implants and just about anything someone can make in a dental lab! Phil talked with me about my grinding habits and stress levels before taking impressions of my upper and lower teeth and then he walked me through his process of making a night guard.


Step 1: Make impressions

Man with wavy hair takes selfie while waiting for dental impressions at the dentist's office
Here’s me looking a little nervous before having my impressions made. (You probably don’t want to see me during!) But Phil was great at coaching me through the process and making sure I was comfortable.

 

First your dental tech finds an impression tray that fits your mouth. Then they fill the tray with impression material and pressing the tray over your teeth, waiting about a minute for the impression material to set up. Once set up, they remove the tray and take it to lab to be poured up in stone.

After you’re finished with your impressions, you might have some impression material left over in your teeth. Phil handed me some toothpicks and I was able to remove the material without a lot of trouble.

Step 2: Pour the models

Stone and water mixture is added to the impression tray and a dental vibrator is used to shake the mixture into place

Next they take the impressions to the lab and mix up the stone and water, adding the mix into the impression using a dental vibrator so it flows evenly throughout.

Step 3: Let the models dry

Using a lab trick for a quick setup time for the stone, place the model work on the back of the steam cleaner using heat to harden faster.

Using a lab trick for a quick setup time for the stone, they place the model work on the back of the steam cleaner using heat to harden faster.

Step 4: Trim the model

Using the model trimmer to shape the models into the ideal horseshoe shape, and removing any access stone.

Now they use the model trimmer to shape the models into the ideal horseshoe shape, and remove any access stone.

Step 5: Blocking out voids

Sometimes in the pour up of the models there are voids or air bubbles in the models. Using a light cure material we blockout the voids. Then placing the models in the light cure unit for the material to harden.

Sometimes in the pour-up of the models, there are voids or air bubbles in the models. Using a light cure material they block out the voids, then they place the models in the light cure unit for the material to harden.

Step 6: Soak models

Before applying the bite guard material soak the models so the material will harden quickly.

Before applying the bite guard material, they soak the models so the material will harden quickly.

Step 7: The vacuum former

The material used for this type of bite guard is a thermoplastic. The material comes in sheets that is locked into a metal frame and a heating coil applies heat to the sheet. Once the sheet has slumped 2-3 inches, the frame is lowered on top of the model. Turning the vacuum base on causes the sheet to suck down snugly around the model.

The material used for this type of bite guard is a thermoplastic. The material comes in sheets that is locked into a metal frame and a heating coil applies heat to the sheet. Once the sheet has slumped 2-3 inches, the frame is lowered on top of the model. Turning the vacuum base on causes the sheet to suck down snugly around the model.

Step 8: Diamond cutter

After the model has cooled under a cold water stream, they use a diamond disk to remove the access sheet from the model.

After the model has cooled under a cold water stream, they use a diamond disk to remove the access sheet from the model.

Step 9: Refine using the lathe

Time to refine the bite guard by first removing it from the model. The lathe and a cutting disk will shade the bite guard to the correct fit and thickness.

Time to refine the bite guard by first removing it from the model. The lathe and a cutting disk will shade the bite guard to the correct fit and thickness.

Step 10: Polish

Using a dry rag wheel, they polish and add the finishing touches to a crystal-clear bite guard.

Using a dry rag wheel, they polish and add the finishing touches to a crystal-clear bite guard.


And that’s how a night guard is made!

Most dentists need to send their impressions off to a lab to have the night guard made. But at the Denture Care Center in LaGrange, Kentucky, Phil can have your night guard finished in less than an hour! How cool is that?

I’ve been wearing my custom night guard for the last week and I have to say it is so much better than the night guard I had before. Waking up and finding my old one somewhere in my bed had become part of my morning routine – but with the one Phil’s made for me, I am happy and comfortable all night long. And it stays in my mouth all night!

If you need a night guard or mouth guard for sports, it’s time to call Phil at the Denture Care Center. In a single visit, he’ll make you the best night guard you’ve ever worn and your days of damaging your teeth with grinding and clenching will be a thing of the past.

Call the Denture Care Center to schedule a consultation today at (502) 225-0074.

Posted in: General Oral Health

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