General Dentistry |4 min read

What is An Occlusal Guard and Why Would I Need One?

Custom Fabricated Occlusal Guard
Occlusal or Bite Guard

Do you sometimes wake up with jaw pain or soreness, wake up with a headache, have sensitive teeth or notice signs that your teeth are shifting or wearing down? If so, you may need an occlusal or “bite” guard.

One of our primary goals at Affinity Contemporary Dentistry is prevention, and the ultimate purpose of a bite guard is to decrease the forces of grinding and clenching, and prevent further damage and pain. Often individuals are unaware that they clench or grind their teeth, because it may be mostly occurring at night when they are not conscious of their habits. Wearing a bite guard doesn’t stop you from clenching or grinding, but it serves as a cushion and as a result, it will help protect your teeth from wear and relieve the pain and tension in your jaw muscles. As a result, wearing an occlusal guard can prevent further damage and pain.

Grinding or Clenching?

Persistent grinding or clenching will wear down the enamel of your teeth, and make them more prone to breaking and sensitivity. There are many signs that your teeth are undergoing repeated and unnecessary stress and strain, and as a result, you may notice:

  • You have chipped a tooth you don’t recall chipping
  • Your front teeth are looking shorter
  • Your molars appear flat on top or have little pits or holes in them
  • You can see little cracks in your teeth
Teeth with significant wear and chipping, because of the effects of clenching and grinding
Teeth that show significant wear and chipping
Lower teeth that show mild wear and chipping from short-term grinding and clenching
Lower teeth that show mild wear and chipping



These are all signs that you are clenching or grinding. The bite guard helps protect your teeth from being worn down or chipped by absorbing and dispersing these clenching and grinding forces, thus protecting the enamel in your teeth. Prevention is very important. In addition, reducing these forces is especially important for those with periodontal (gum) disease or those with dental implants.


Jaw or TMJ Pain

Beyond protecting your teeth, a bite guard reduces or relieves the pain and tension in your jaw muscles. This is achieved by helping to raise the bite and reposition the jaw to a position that helps relieve any symptoms and discomfort.

As a result, having this cushion between your teeth can:

  • Relieve the strain and stress in your jaw muscles
  • Reduce jaw pain, tightness, and soreness
  • Reduce earaches, headaches, and facial pain


What is an Occlusal Guard?

To prevent further damages from clenching and grinding, and to relieve the symptoms of jaw and TMJ pain, requires a very accurate, custom made guard. This bite guard will be constructed with specific and individualized properties to treat your symptoms. The bite guard is worn either on the top or bottom teeth and is made of a hybrid acrylic material that is softer on the inside and harder on the outside. It is a two-visit process to create each patient’s bite guard.

Mounted dental model with a custom created occlusal guard
Mounted Occlusal Guard


At your first visit, impressions are taken of your teeth, molds are then created of your teeth and are sent to the lab, where they fabricate a custom bite guard. After that, the custom bite guard is delivered two weeks later and all of the necessary adjustments are made to ensure that the fit and function is ideal. Above all, the proper fit of the bite guard is essential, because a poorly fabricated or fitted bite guard can make a serious problem even worse!


We know that cost is often a concern, but when you compare the preventative cost of the bite guard to the cost of repairing the damage created by clenching or grinding, the bite guard cost is minimal.

So, the next time you’re at your dentist, ask if a bite guard is right for you!

Be sure to contact our dental office in Edmonds, WA, today so that our dental team can help you get the pain-free smile of your dreams!

Disclaimer: The information included in this article is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.