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The Ritual Slaughter of my Nightguard

            There were so many things about the oral surgery that worried me: I was worried about the pain, and the anesthesia, and being out of commission for a couple of days, which meant leaving Mom to take care of the dogs, even though she was still recovering from her second hip surgery. And I was worried about how I would look, with the bruises on my face and the temporary 3D printed implant. And I was worried about the idea that they would be putting screws into my cheek bones, through my sinuses. How could that not cause problems? I wouldn’t even think of piercing my nose or lip, and now they were going to pierce my sinuses?!

            But I knew I had to do it anyway, because just since the surgery had been scheduled even more of my teeth had become obviously loose (rather than just looking loose in my x-rays).

“No, Mommy. Just no.”

            But the one thing I was looking forward to about the surgery, other than having a new set of strong, healthy, upper teeth, was that I wouldn’t have to wear my nightguard anymore. I’ve worn the same nightguard since my early twenties, when a periodontist told me that I grind my teeth every night while I sleep. I wasn’t sure how he could tell, but I assumed he was right. My dentist revised the nightguard once, without commenting on how impressive it was that this same piece of plastic, created by the periodontist a million years ago, was still holding strong.

I’m only finding out now, per Google, that I was supposed to be doing a monthly deep cleaning of the darned thing. I always brushed it with toothpaste and rinsed it and dried it before putting it away in its case (though now I’m also finding out that my toothpaste might have been too abrasive. Oops.). But I’d never heard about doing a monthly deep cleaning with denture cleanser, or alternating half hour soaks in hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. But then again, the article that told me all of this also said that a nightguard should last an average of five years, so… maybe I was better off without the deep cleaning after all.

“Hygiene is overrated.”

            It’s still possible that I will need a nightguard for my new teeth, once I get the permanent implant in a few months, but it won’t be the same one I’ve had all these years. And even though I will not miss this nightguard, I still feel like I need to come up with a satisfying ritual to say goodbye to it, instead of just tossing it in the garbage. It deserves my respect, if not my love, for watching over me every night and helping me keep my teeth in place as long as possible. The idea of ritual slaughter came to mind, even though the nightguard is not a living thing, because the temptation to hit it with a hammer, or chop it into tiny pieces with a cleaver is very high. But I also like the idea of burying it, like you would do with a ritual object you can no longer use. The problem with that idea is, one, the nightguard is plastic and won’t degrade underground, and two, if I bury it in the backyard, the raccoons might dig it up and then I’ll see it on someone’s porch one morning, after the raccoons have tried it on and realized it didn’t work for their teeth.


            But even if a ritual burial/destruction is impractical, maybe there’s a blessing I could say before throwing the nightguard out. Like, Thank you, nightguard, for keeping my teeth safe lo these many years. Now your work is done and you can take your long needed rest. But, again, anthropomorphizing a piece of plastic feels kind of creepy.

            Maybe instead, I could thank the periodontist who made it? Or the dentist who revised it? Or the inventor who came up with the idea of a nightguard in the first place? I’m realizing that I rely on many different inventions to keep me functioning like a semi-normal person: my glasses, and orthotics, and painkillers, and anti-depressants, on top of the nightguard and now the new implant. And there are so many other inventions that make my life possible: like air conditioners, and washing machines, and indoor plumbing (!!!), that did not exist for my ancestors a thousand, or a hundred, or even fifty years ago. So, maybe this should be my blessing: Thank you to all of the people who have worked hard to make our lives healthier, safer, and more comfortable. I hope you were paid well for your work. And, may I never have to see this little piece of plastic ever again. Amen.


If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

49 responses »

  1. I’ve been wearing a night guard for decades. I got a new one about five year ago and it is way more comfortable that the previous one. I put it into retainer or night guard cleaner for 10 minutes every morning. I broke the previous one and found that I didn’t sleep so well without one. I wish you all the best for your dental surgery. Once it is over you will feel much better.

  2. I had an old nightguard, but did not use it as many years as you used yours. I felt a bit attached to it even after it had been replaced. I kept the old one in a small English tin box and stored it on a knick-knack shelf for a year or so. In the end, I placed it on my shrine for one gratitude meditation. I then wrapped it with some old flowers and discarded it in the household trash. I believe that was a proper send-off.

  3. I’ve worn a nightguard for ages–I’m a grinder, too. I had mine replaced by my kids orthodontist–like a gazillion years ago, but still continue with it. I think daily brushing is OK for me–I am not about to buy denture cleaner for it or hydrogen peroxide and vinegar and then put it in my mouth??!! No! Interesting topic, Rachel, and really kind of good to know that more people than I would have thought wear these things daily.

  4. Rachel, your thought of racoons sitting on a porch trying out your nightguard sounds like the makings of a great comic strip. Kudos to you for keeping your nightguard in your mouth the entire night. I have Invisalign’s from my 20’s that I’m supposed to wear every night. Only I inevitably and quite unconsciously remove one or both during the night. I stopped wearing them once we got Adi. I’m too afraid she’ll find and devour one while I snooze away. Hope my orthodontist isn’t reading this but I only pop them in for a few daylight hours when I feel any shifting in my teeth.

  5. You need something like a Hari-Kuyo ceremony for your night guard. Perhaps retire it in fondant or something tasty.

    For me, I have a Nesbit I can no longer wear yet can’t quite get rid of. Why can’t we let go? 🤷‍♀️

  6. You manage to describe the nightmare with your customary humour

  7. Let’s hold each other’s hands! ❤ I've get my first too out ever, not this Friday coming, but the one after. I've never really had many problem with my teeth, but I may have to be completely put under. I don't want to know much about it to be honest, so then I can just deal when I get there.

  8. I never expected to read an ‘Obituary to a nightguard’. You have created something unique here, Rachel. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  9. In Japan it’s not unusual to show gratitude to glasses/iPhones/hearing aids/etcetera for their years of service before disposing of them. A ritual of some sort helps.

  10. I should be wearing a nightguard, because I grind my teeth terribly, but I don’t even go to the dentist any more. You are to be congratulated for taking such good care of your body.

  11. I enjoyed your prayer. I also have had a nightguard since in my 20s, but I notice when I don’t have it. Like you, when I was told I ground my teeth, I was doubtful, but I know I do now. I had to have braces when in my mid 20s bc the grinding shifted my teeth, it was so bad. Thus, I’m really anal about dental work now and my bite. I feel for you. Prayers for a quick recovery.

  12. I’m glad to know I’m not the only person who feels the need to thank an object I’m about to discard! It seems disrespectful to just throw it in the trash after years of faithful service. I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

  13. I want implants, but the cost isn’t doable right now. Partial plate on the bottom, and denture on top. I hate it, but it is what it is. My ex didn’t believe in dentists, or making appointments, and since I was a truck driver, and hardly ever home, I was foolishly dependent on her to make them. So I suffer for it now.

  14. Good luck! Hubby has seen the dentist about dentures but may not be able to have them due to how far his gums have recessed.

  15. Oh, Rachel, you really made me smile big with this one, especially Cricket’s “hygiene is overrated.” After about 25 years, I changed dentists to one closer to where I now live. At the first visit, the dentist told me I grind my teeth, explained how she knew, even showing me the evidence from the x-rays, up on a large screen TV hanging on the wall. So I’ll be going in to be fitted for one of those guards, too. I never thought about how to take care of it…maybe I’ll just take Cricket’s advice…

  16. I’ve been wearing a night guard for about fifteen years, so I understand what you mean. The only good thing about the Invisalign braces I’m wearing now (to correct my bite) is that I don’t have to wear a night guard and seem to be doing okay. But I still have it…..

  17. I thank inanimate objects all the time, Rachel. It’s no big deal. Go ahead and thank it if you want to. I wonder though, maybe the reason it’s not more worn is that you actually don’t grind your teeth that much?

  18. What did you decide in the end to do with it?

  19. How about considering your grueling saga with the teeth guard or any other bothersome device you’ve e endured as the subject of your next book. Good luck for the new school year.

  20. Uh oh! Monthly deep cleaning?? I brush and spray with mouthwash each day but was never told about deep cleaning!! Great post made me giggle at 6 am!


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