How does a night guard for teeth work, and how effective is a night guard at preventing teeth grinding, jaw pain and chipped or broken teeth?
In this article, we will be going into detail about everything you need to know and consider before buying a night guard. The ground we are going to cover includes the reason why you should consider getting a night guard, what kind of night guard to get (Yes, there are different types of night guards for teeth), and whether or not to get your new night guard from your dentist, over the counter or online. At the end of this article, you will find a FAQ, which we hope will answer any last questions you might have about wearing a dental night guard.
Without further delay, let us get down to business.
What a mouth guard is and why you should get one
There are many good reasons for you to consider investing a bit of money in a quality night guard. Let us start with a brief overview over what a mouth guard is and what it does, before diving into more detail.
A dental night guard is essentially a protective dental device that fits in your mouth and serves the purpose of stopping your teeth from meeting completely when you bite down, clench or grind your teeth at night. This protects your teeth from the wear and tear that comes from teeth grinding (the medical term is bruxism), and alleviates jaw pain and soreness. And not only that, night guards can also help protect your lips, gums and arches.
In many ways, night guards are very similar to sports mouthguards, but the two are not interchangeable. The former is made and intended for wear during the night, to protect your teeth and jaw from the ravages of bruxism, while the latter is only meant to be worn when you are playing contact sports, to protect your teeth against any damage caused by impact during a fight or a game. It is important that you do not try to use a sports mouth guard as a night guard, as it could cause damage to your teeth or mouth.
Most dental night guards are made from a plastic-like clear and soft material called ethylene-vinyl acetate, which is often shortened to EVA for the sake of simplicity. Some newer night guard models are made from a much stronger thermo-polymer that allows for lower molding temperatures.
What all night guards worth their price tag have in common is that they are custom-fitted to your teeth and mouth. It is very important to use a custom night guard if you want it to do its job safely, effectively and well.
All right, now that you have a good overview of what a night guard is and what it does, let us go into the primary reasons why you should consider buying one.
Prevents teeth grinding and clenching
For most people, the primary motivation for getting a night guard is to alleviate teeth grinding, clenching and tension in the jaw muscles and ligaments.
If you are someone who grinds their teeth at night, you are also likely to often wake up with a sore jaw, and possibly a pressure headaches.
Prevents Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
A night guard is an effective preventative measure against Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ).
The temporomandibular joint is a small, hinge-like joint which connects the jaw and the skull. It is important to point out here that the temporomandibular joint affects the mouth and jaw muscles you use to chew, so when you clench your teeth in your sleep, you apply pressure to the TMJ, which can cause misalignment. When misaligned, you are bound to develop TMJ dysfunction over time. The disorder causes difficulty in chewing as well as pain around and in your ears.
Prevents chipped and broken teeth
One of the worst things about grinding and clenching your teeth in your sleep is that this is likely to lead to chipped or broken teeth – and at the very least, badly worn tooth enamel, which in turn can enhance tooth sensitivity.
Enter your new mouth guard, which will prevent your teeth from grinding against each other while you sleep.
Helps with sleep apnea
Do you suffer from sleep apnea? If so, it may surprise you that a night guard might be able to replace your continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.
Sleep apnea is a medical condition where the sufferer’s airways narrow down during the sleep cycle, which causes gasping, choking, and breathing in fits and starts rather than regularly and deeply.
Not only is sleep apnea an unpleasant uncomfortable condition, it also causes you to be extremely tired and fatigued during the day, since your body is unable to rest and recover as thoroughly as it should when you are not breathing properly while sleeping. Sleep apnea causes a number of other issues as well, including dry mouth, headaches and insomnia.
In other words, sleep apnea is a condition you should seek treatment for if you happen to be one of the millions of people worldwide who are suffering from it.
The most common and usually most effective treatment for sleep apnea is to wear a sleep mask hooked up to a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) while you sleep. Of course, having a large piece of kit next to your bed and a mask over your mouth can seem cumbersome and unpleasant. Wearing a night guard is a much smaller infringement in comparison.
A night guard can sometimes alleviate sleep apnea symptoms, as it allows your jaw muscles and ligaments to relax. This can stop both them and your airways from constricting, which would allow you to breathe deeply and regularly throughout the night.
If you are dealing with sleep apnea and have not yet tried a night guard, we recommend putting down everything you have in your hands and booking an appointment to see your dentist about a custom fitted night guard right away.
Different types of night guards
The American Sleep Association in fact classifies night mouth guards depending on the materials from which they are made:
Soft night guards
These night guards are made from soft plastic, which means that they will not cause any damage to your teeth even if you tend to grind your teeth hard at night.
A soft night guard can be tempting to bite down on, and if you grind your teeth a lot in your sleep, you will probably be amazed at how quickly you are able to completely destroy your soft night guard. For this reason, soft mouth guards tend to come with shorter warranties than their hard or dual laminated counterparts.
Hard Night guards
These are made from acrylic and are used to treat TMJ problems and disorders as well as severe teeth grinding and clenching cases. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, and TMJ disorders are conditions affecting the joints, muscles and ligaments of the jaw.
Hard night guards help the muscles to relax so that the bite changes due to the lower jaw and positions itself in a healthy, centric bite.
Dual laminated night guards
Dual laminated night guards can be said to combine the best of both worlds. The internal part of a dual laminated mouth guard is made of soft material, while the outer part is fashioned from a hard acrylic.
The obvious advantage of choosing a dual laminated night guard is that it will feel soft and gentle on the inside, while still being tough and durable.
Dentist vs over the counter night guards
In this burgeoning golden age of tele-dentistry, no one can blame you for wondering whether you should skip the hassle and expense associated with making an appointment and heading to your dentist’s office for a mouth guard when OTC mouth guards are available both online and from your local pharmacy.
While there is no clear and simple answer to this question, here are a few things you need to consider and weigh up against each other before you go ahead and order an OTC mouth guard online or go purchase one from the pharmacy.
The benefits of a custom night guard
There are many advantages to wearing a custom night guard as opposed to a generic over-the-counter one.
Not only do you reduce the risks of unwanted side effects (which we will be looking into in the next paragraph) when you wear custom mouth guard, you also ensure a comfortable fit, and that your new mouth guard actually delivers the results it is meant to achieve, namely tooth protection, reduced jaw pain and tension, reduced headaches, and so on. Without a proper fit, your night guard may feel uncomfortable in your mouth, while also proving itself totally ineffectual.
The risks of an OTC night guard
While some OTC night guards are no doubt better than no mouth guard at all, some are actually worse.
Not all mouth guards sold online are quality controlled or regulated, which means you may end up buying a low-quality device. An ill-fitting or poor quality mouth guard can cause all sorts of problems, including unintended and unwanted tooth movement and tissue damage. The British Dental Journal has even noted that a low quality OTC night guard may even pose a choking hazard. For this reason alone, paying more to get a custom fitted mouth guard from your dentist is going to be more than worth it.
Where to get your night guard from
As we have already touched on, there are multiple different places and vendors selling night guards. Let us briefly go over what your options are.
From your dentist
The best place to get yourself a custom fitted night guard is from your dentist.
Your dentist will be able to assess what your unique requirements are, and will be able to recommend the best aligner for your needs. This is a tremendous advantage, as you will not have to depend on yourself to decide whether you, say, need a soft, hard or dual laminated night guard. It will also not be up to you to boil and bite your own mouth guard, Instead, your dentist will take impressions for you, ensuring the very best fit.
The importance of an accurate fit cannot be exaggerated. Only when your mouth guard fits and sits right in your mouth will it be able to protect your teeth properly, rather than potentially causing more harm than good.
Over the counter
Over the counter is your worst option for procuring a mouth guard.
Why? When you buy an over the counter mouthguard, you are going to have to boil and bite it yourself in order to create something approaching a custom fit.
While some over the counter mouth guards are better than no mouth guard at all, this is not always a given. If your new mouth guard fits badly in your mouth, not only is it not going to be very effective at alleviating grinding, clenching and tension, it may also cause actual harm, for example by cutting into your gums, by misaligning your bite, or even by shifting your teeth until they are no longer straight. If this happens, your only option is to seek teeth straightening treatment, which is both costly and expensive if you didn’t need it in the first place.
Much like there are many teeth straightening treatment plans available from tele-dentistry providers at this point in time, there are also tele dentistry companies selling mouthguards. A few examples include the SleepPro, DenTek, Smile Brilliant, Chomper Labs, Pro Teeth Guard and Sporting Smiles.
Reviewing all of these night guard providers is beyond the scope of this article, so if you are interested in buying a mouthguard from a tele-dentistry company, we recommend reading review and doing your due diligence before choosing which provider to go with.
All in all, purchasing your mouthguard from an online company specialising in mouth guards is a much better choice than simply purchasing one from your local pharmacy or a more generalised online retailer like Amazon or eBay. The kits provided by online mouthguard companies like Smile Brilliant and DenTek come with detailed instructions and everything you need to be able to create your own, reasonably well fitted mouth guard at home.
Having said that, we still recommend getting your new mouth guard through your dentist instead, even if this is the slightly pricier choice, at least in the short term.
Night guard FAQ
What does a night guard do?
Is night guard good for teeth?
Provided that you get a mouth guard with customized fit, wearing a mouth guard at night can help alleviate an impressive variety of dental issues and other problems caused by severe bruxism (teeth grinding) and clenching, including dull headaches, sleep apnea and TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders.
A mouth guard prevents teeth grinding and clenching by pushing the lower jaw forward, so that your bite is aligned rather than askew, while also preventing your teeth from touching each other. What this does is that it protects your tooth enamel, which can otherwise suffer a lot of wear and tear from nighttime teeth grinding. It also protects your teeth from chipping or cracking as a result of teeth grinding – particularly the front teeth, which are much thinner and therefore more fragile and exposed than the molars.
Should you wear night guard on upper or lower teeth?
In some cases, your dentist may recommend that you wear your night guard on either your lower or upper teeth, but for the most part this is going to be entirely up to you and what you personally find to be the most comfortable.
Is it good to sleep with a night guard?
Wearing a night guard while you sleep keeps your upper and lower teeth separated, which stops them from grinding against each other. This can help prevent or alleviate a number of dental and other health issues, including pressure headaches, Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, sleep apnea and of course chipped and broken teeth as a result of severe grinding.
Can you get a night guard over the counter?
However, just because OTC (over the counter) mouth guards are easy to get hold of does not mean that you should. The reason is that most OTC mouth guards are not custom fitted, which means that they may not be fit for purpose – as a matter of fact, wearing an ill-fitting mouth guard over your teeth at night can cause all sorts of problems, including tooth pain, loose teeth, and even tooth movement similarly to if you were wearing braces.
There are two important things to consider when you are looking to buy a mouthguard to wear at night. One is a custom fit, the other is quality material. There are three different types of mouth guards, soft, hard and dual laminated. You should choose the type of dental guard that is best suited to address your specific nocturnal bite plate and requirements. Only a qualified dental professional possesses the know-how to be able to advise you as to which type of dental guard would be best for you.
In most cases, buying an OTC night guard for teeth is a short-sighted solution. Sure, it will save you money in the short term, but if it ends up causing dental problems, it could quickly turn into a liability and a much greater future expense. As is so often the case, paying more for a higher quality service and product is the wiser choice.
How much does a night guard cost?
On average, you can expect to pay somewhere between $225 to $600 for a custom fitted night guard from your dentist. With insurance, the overall cost can usually be brought down to the $150 to $350 range.
Investing in a custom fitted mouth guard to wear at night can make a key difference to your health and well-being. If you are someone who is prone to teeth grinding and clenching, you may not be aware of how much strain this is putting on your teeth, not to mention the muscles and ligaments of your jaw. If you often wake up with a dull headache and sore jaw, you may not even have considered the fact that a night guard could be the solution.
Unlike a night aligner, a night guard is not indended to shift your teeth, but merely to stop them from touching and grinding against each other.
A mouth guard is a simple medical device that gets to the root cause of numerous dental issues, as well as jaw pain, pressure headaches and so on. When you pop in your new night guard for the first time, you are going to be amazed at how much it helps your jaw muscles to relax.
If you are a sleep apnea sufferer, a mouth guard can also be of tremendous help. Imagine being able to sleep comfortably through the night, without the need for A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which can be both awkward and cumbersome.
All in all, getting yourself a custom fitted night guard is the equivalent of making a sound investment in your health and wellbeing, one that is bound to pay dividends in years to come.