Wearing a night guard is a helpful solution to reduce pain and damage caused by teeth grinding while you sleep. But you may ask which night guard should I get? Over-the-counter night guards are a cheaper option available to buy either online or from your nearby drugstore, and there are custom-made night guards professionally fitted by your dentist. While the choice is yours, it is worth considering the benefits of a custom night guard in terms of how comfortable it is and fits well as well as the better protection and durability in the material.
Do you need a night guard?
Teeth grinding and clenching, also known as bruxism, is a painful condition which can result in a number of oral health problems. The habit can wear down tooth enamel and break down your teeth over time. So, if you have bruxism, a night guard, is often essential to protect your teeth and prevent pain and soreness in mouth and jaw muscles.
A night guard, often called a mouthguard or occlusal splint, creates a barrier between the upper and lower teeth. If you think you might be grinding your teeth at night, here are a few bruxism symptoms to figure out:
- Tooth pain
- Jaw muscle pain and soreness
- Facial pain
- Headaches when you wake up
- Fatigue due to lack of sleep
Although night guards don’t cure bruxism, you will have your teeth and oral structures protected from harmful teeth grinding effects. In addition to bruxism, mouthguards can also be a method of treatment for a number of health issues, including:
- Reducing jaw pain or TMJ disorders
- Improving the quality of sleep and preventing snoring
- Management of obstructive sleep apnea, a condition in which a person’s airway is obstructed during sleep
- Preventing dental injuries in high contact sports such as boxing, basketball, rugby, martial arts, and other sports with high possibility of dental injury
What is the difference between over-the-counter night guards and custom night guards?
When you have to decide between the options of an over-the-counter night guard or custom night guard made by your dentist, there are some factors that will help.
Over-the-counter night guard: pros and cons
You will have the over-the-counter night guards available to buy from a local pharmacy or a product made by an online company. There are two main types of over-the-counter night guards. The first option is often called stock mouthguards. These are one-size-fits-all type made for any mouth. The guards are often bulky and don’t fit your mouth.
While a better option for short-term use, the second type is the boil-and-bite night guard. You will have to heat up the impression material that comes with the package and bite into it in order to make your night guard that fits well on your teeth. However, the process may not go as accurately and the guard may not fit you properly. Also, once you trim the excess parts, it can have sharp edges, causing irritation and discomfort in your mouth.
There are some online companies providing over-the-counter but a more custom type of night guard. How do they work? They will send you an impression kit with your purchase to take at home. Once done and sent back, they will use it to create the night guard for you.
- Widely available
- Tend to be bulky and uncomfortable
- Don’t fit properly which can damage soft tissues in the mouth and increase the risk of teeth shifting and jaw pain. This can lead to more damage to oral health.
- Not durable and poor quality of material. The OTC night guards don’t generally last long —1 month or 2—which ultimately get destroyed and start to break down.
- Due to lack of fit, over-the-counter night guards may fall out during sleep which can even present choking hazards.
Custom night guards
A custom-made night guard from your dentist is the safest and the most accurate night guard. These are designed specifically for you to fit your teeth and jaw alignment based on the impression taken at the dental office from your teeth. Your dentist sends the impression to the dental lab where your night guard is professionally crafted.
The customized fabrication and the higher quality material make a custom night guard a perfect fit and a lot more comfortable night guard than the over-the-counter ones.
Depending on your specific needs and condition, your dentist may recommend different options of night guards. For example, your dentist can provide you with a soft, rubbery-like night guard for mild teeth grinding. Or, if you grind your teeth and clench more severely, this requires a harder night guard or a hybrid night guard—which is softer inside and made harder from outside.
Also, if you need a night guard for sleep apnea or TMJ, these occlusal guards are different from the teeth grinding type. Your dentist will make you a night guard to alleviate these symptoms based on your problem.
Before getting a dentist night guard, your dentist will take X-rays and check your teeth and mouth for any concerning signs. You might just need an upper or lower night guard and sometimes for both. If there is any dental work such as veneers or crowns in your mouth, your dentist will figure that out for better protection and prepare you one that suits you best.
- Proper fit and comfortable
- Maximum protection for teeth and other oral structures
- Recommended for bruxism and other health conditions
- Professionally custom-made to fit your teeth and jaw size and based on your individualized needs
- Durable because of the better quality of material
- More expensive
- Waiting time before it is ready
Watch the below video exploring more on the differences between a custom dentist night guard and the OTC types:
It is essential to visit your dentist or doctor to find ways to stop bruxism. One of the best treatment options to prevent the effects of teeth grinding and clenching is to wear a night guard with proper fit. Before deciding on the type of night guard, discuss your options with your dentist and what works for you best. Don’t sacrifice quality and get on with a safe and confident pick for the sake of improved oral health.
Frequently asked questions
On average, the cost of a night guard from your dentist can range from $300 to $800. Custom-made night guards can be relatively expensive due to the labor and quality material involved in creating them. They will fit perfectly as they are designed specifically for your teeth and jaw size. This provides you with optimal comfort and protection.
Although cheaper in price, over-the-counter night guards are not designed to fit perfectly to your teeth. They generally tend to be bulky and fit poorly, causing damage to the oral structures. It is recommended to get a custom night guard from your dentist to better protect your teeth from teeth grinding.