Dental mouth guards

By Mac Lee
Dec. 5, 2017 at 4 p.m.

Years ago, I was driving a 1954 Willis Jeep down a caliche road in West Texas. There was a good size rock in the middle of the road that was about 10 inches high. I thought I had the rock straddled but it hit the side wall of the front right tire. The side pressure from the heavy rock popped the wheel completely off the jeep.

People's bites can be like rocks in a road. Teeth, like tires, need to have up and down pressure, not side to side pressure. Quite simply, dental mouth guards are supposed to prevent the side to side pressure that can occur during sleep.

The purpose of this article is to briefly describe the different kinds of popular mouth/night guards. Every dentist has their own belief system, so I want to make it perfectly clear that what follows is based on my personal belief and experience. My history of making mouth guards goes back to 1977 at the L.D. Pankey Institute in Miami. Dental schools do not teach their students about these kinds of dental procedures.

Upper night guard

The principle of the upper guard is, when closing straight down, all back teeth hit the plastic at exactly the same time and with the same force. And when the lower jaw moves, the back teeth come apart.

In my opinion, the upper guards have a tendency to push the jaw and, therefore, the jaw joint too far back, which is uncomfortable and sometimes quite painful.

Over the counter

People are smart. Their dentist sees wear and breakage of teeth and suggest a night guard that costs a lot of money. They figure a "boil and bite" will do the same job for a lot less money and yes a boil and bite will keep the teeth apart.

The problem is people have a tendency to clench on the soft plastic, which can cause other problems. The other problem is the device is meant to keep the teeth from cracking because of a blow to the head, and it is not precise enough to act as a well-balanced mouth guard.

NTI

The NTI is a small appliance that snaps on the upper front teeth. It was invented by a friend of mine. He is a dentist who suffered from life-robbing head pain. The NTI is FDA approved for helping with tension headaches. I don't use it because the back teeth don't touch anything meaning there is no support for the joints while it is being worn.

All the above guards, if done correctly, keep your back teeth from hitting incorrectly while sleeping. They keep the tires from being knocked off. Not all of them help with joint, ear or head pain.

Neuromuscular orthotic

I now use a lower orthotic much like I did in 1978 except I make it in a way that lines up the upper and lower jaw in the correct orthopedic position. I have a computer that measures the EMGs of the chewing muscles and can track the lower jaw in space. I know when the muscles are happy or when they are irritated at different jaw positions. This gives me a very good idea where the jaw wants to be.

The purpose of the neuromuscular orthotic is to protect the teeth, support the joints and lessens the pain from TMJ/TMD. It is more than a night guard and yes, it sounds crazy that a piece of plastic can help the unfortunate people who suffer from the life-robbing pain of tension headaches and migraines.

If you want to know more, I have a 30-minute documentary of the process on my website drmaclee.com.

Dr. Mac Lee practices in Edna. He is an international speaker and trainer to dentists. He is dedicated to educate the public about dental disease. To learn more about dentistry, visit drmaclee.com or call 361-782-7191.


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