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A night guard or an orthotic?

added on: October 26, 2016

What is the difference between a “night guard” and an “orthotic”?

Who can resist these illusions?

                   Is it a bunny or a duck?                              Old lady or young woman?




Elephant or ashtray?


Ok, you get the point; things that look the same, but are clearly different. Optical illusions are fun, but does dentistry have to be confusing too?

Night Guard                           vs.                               Orthotic





They look the same. Both are clear pieces of acrylic that go on your teeth. Sounds pretty simple, but the distinction is oh so important (and the devil is in the details).

Just like a night guard sounds, it guards the teeth from grinding. This means, as grinding continues, the plastic night guard helps protect the teeth from breaking under tremendous pressures from our jaw muscles!

But what about the jaw muscles that work all night long? Sadly, this means the muscles are still grinding all night and continue to be strained, allowing many Temporo-Mandibular Joint (aka TMJ) conditions (i.e. facial, neck and shoulder pain; headaches; popping jaw) to continue or worsen.

The orthotic, on the other hand, places the teeth in a position where the jaw muscles and the TMJ are comfortable and relaxed.

An orthotic is designed to stop grinding and, therefore, many symptoms associated with TMJ are decreased or go away altogether. While some think the only symptoms of the condition are popping in the jaw and jaw pain, it may manifest in various ways, including keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep. Chronic headaches or migraines are also commonly misdiagnosed symptoms.

Ready for an upgrade? If you think an orthotic is the Cadillac version of a night guard, you’re right, but it gets even better than that. In our next blog, we’ll talk about how an orthotic may help relax muscles and help TMJ conditions, as well as open the airway during sleep.

I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about night guards and orthotics. Call 907-277-1098 or email anytime!