Do Nightguards Prevent Teeth From Moving? Hygienist Explains

a dental nightguard

Whether you have had braces or not or have experienced tooth loss or gum disease, our teeth can shift in our mouths over time. Shifting teeth can make us more self-conscious and worry about how much they will move. But can nightguards prevent teeth from moving?

Nightguards fabricated and fitted by a dental professional can prevent teeth from shifting and moving out of position. The nightguard needs to be tight fitting and not loose, and the mold of the teeth before teeth shift, and nightguards cannot move teeth that have already shifted.

In this post,
I cover how nightguards can act as retainers, but not all makes and models will prevent teeth from shifting. I also touch on how habits, such as clenching and grinding, affect teeth movement.

Does a nightguard act as a retainer and prevent teeth from moving?

A nightguard’s primary use is to protect the teeth and periodontium of the mouth against the damaging effects of clenching and grinding (bruxism). It is not designed to function as a retainer and not as effective as a retainer, but it does help to keep teeth from moving and shifting.

However, nightguards that are correctly made by a dental professional will have the snuggest fit compared to an over-the-counter purchased nightguard. Please do not buy a nightguard over the counter, as it can contribute to damaging the teeth and bite.

Read Now: Can Nightguards Damage Teeth and Bite? Hygienist Explains

This tight fit can help teeth stay in place within reason and will absorb the forces caused by clenching and grinding.

With clenching and grinding, a lot of force is applied to the teeth, which can cause them to move and shift.

Clenching and grinding can also lead to wear, fractures and chips on the teeth, gum recession and abfraction lesions where tooth structure chips off in microscopic amounts. But over time, the lost tooth structure will add up and become noticeable as notching at the gumline/junction of enamel and root surface.

Read Now: Do Night Guards Help With Clenching? Hygienist Explains

I wear a nightguard on my bottom teeth and a clear retainer on my top teeth at night. This method has helped me preserve my smile since I got my braces off many years ago. 

How do I stop my teeth from shifting? Including six reasons

Speaking with a dental professional in person is best because they will have all the tools to see your exact oral status.

Everyone's oral situation and causes of teeth shifting will vary, and speaking to a dental professional is essential. 

Speaking with an orthodontist is also essential, as they specialize in tooth movement and how teeth come together. They will most likely be able to give you a more detailed treatment plan and discussion about tooth movement vs a general dentist.

Teeth can shift and move due to a variety of reasons that are listed below;

  • bruxism
  • gum disease
  • tongue thrust
  • thumb sucking
  • jaw formation/the way teeth erupted
  • braces/orthodontics

Read Now: Is a Top or Bottom Night Guard Better? Hygienist Explains!

Can clenching and grinding teeth (bruxism) cause teeth to shift?

Clenching and grinding teeth can cause teeth to shift by adding additional forces onto the teeth. The cusps of the teeth help maintain their position, so if worn down, teeth can move more freely.

Clenching and grinding put so much extra force on the teeth that it causes them to flex under pressure. The teeth flex the most where the crown meets the tooth’s root, usually around the gum line.

Clenching and grinding can lead to gingival recession and abfraction lesions due to flexion.

The middle tooth has gum recession, and the tooth structure is missing due to abfractions and toothbrush abrasion.

Abfractions can make the tooth more brittle and prone to breaking, chipping and cracking. The areas are also harder to clean, accumulating plaque and food debris and increasing the risk of cavities and tooth sensitivity.

In addition, if a patient has periodontal disease and bone loss has occurred, clenching and grinding can speed up the progression of the bone loss due to the forces on the teeth.

Can nightguards straighten teeth?

Nightguards do not straighten teeth as they are made from a mold of both top and bottom arches and a bite record of how the teeth bite together. The nightguard is made out of the exact molds, keeping the teeth in the same position.

However, if the nightguard does not fit properly (we always recommend having one made by a dental professional) and there is excess pressure on specific teeth, that pressure can make teeth move.
If you put on your nightguard and there is a lot of pressure on just a few teeth, you must let your dentist know.

Also, if the night guard makes your tongue push out on the teeth that night guard does not hold, over-extrusion and force of the tongue can start to change the teeth’ positions.

Although nightguards are made to protect the mouth from the effects of clenching and grinding, they can help to keep the teeth in place if made to be custom fit by a dental professional.

However, if you need to wear a retainer and a nightguard, both can be worn simultaneously on opposite arches (top and bottom).

I hope this information has helped you!

Holly 🙂

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