If you suffer from bruxism, otherwise known as teeth grinding, a dental night guard can help alleviate symptoms such as headache, tooth damage, or tight jaw muscles. Night guards create a barrier between your upper and lower teeth, providing a cushion that protects your teeth. This physical barrier prevents your upper and lower teeth from grinding together. This cushion can also help alleviate the pressure on your jaw created when you clench your teeth at night.
In some cases, however, night guards themselves can come with their own side effects. While the potential side effects of the dental night guard are minor, it’s important to understand what they might be and what you can do about them before you commit to getting a night guard.
Types of night guards
Before we get into the side effects, let’s go over the two main types nighttime mouthguards: over the counter night guards and custom night guards.
Over the counter night guards are sold as one size fits all or as boil and bite night guards. Both types of over the counter night guards might mold to your teeth a little bit, but they won’t be able to give you a true custom fit. Although over the counter night guards might be cheaper and more convenient, they are also typically less comfortable and more likely to give you negative side effects.
Custom fit night guards on the other hand are usually more comfortable because they are thinner and are molded to fit your teeth. They are also usually made of a softer material. No two mouths are the same, so it just doesn’t make sense that one mouthguard could work well for every single person.
While side effects are more likely with over the counter night guards, they are also possible with custom fit night guards. Being educated on these potential side effects can help you take action as soon as you notice them.
Possible night guard side effects and what to do about them
Minor discomfort and irritation
You might experience minor discomfort and irritation when you first start wearing your night guard, and in many cases, it simply takes some getting used to. You’ve been used to sleeping without a night guard your whole life, so it only makes sense that it will feel strange at first.
When I first started wearing a night guard, it felt very strange, but now that I’m used to it, it’s hard for me to sleep without it. When I don’t wear it, my jaw feels sore when I wake up and I even wake throughout the night being aware that I’m clenching my jaw.
If discomfort or irritation persists, or if it moves beyond discomfort and becomes pain, that’s a sign that you need to check in with your dentist and reevaluate the fit of your night guard.
Poor fit that causes pain, pressure, or soreness
When you buy an over the counter night guard or when you use a custom night guard that isn’t fitted properly, you may experience pain. It’s important not to brush off this pain; if your night guard is not fitting you correctly, you want to get it taken care of before it leads to bigger problems such as shifting teeth or jaw misalignment.
To solve this problem, switch to a custom fit night guard if you are currently using one over the counter. If you already have a custom fit night guard that isn’t fitting correctly, have another impression done so you can get a proper fit. Sometimes pain may simply be caused by sharp edges or a thickness that isn’t compatible with your mouth.
When you have a night guard that isn’t properly fitted for your mouth, you can experience teeth shifting. This can actually worsen TMJ, otherwise known as temporomandibular joint dysfunction. If you’ve ever had braces, you’ll be familiar with the pain and soreness associated with shifting teeth. This is something you should not experience with a night guard.
If you suspect that your night guard is actually moving your teeth, visit your dentist so he or she can check your teeth. If it is confirmed that your night guard is altering your teeth, you may need a different type of night guard or you might need to have a new impression done to get a better fit.
Jaw misalignment or pain
Although less common than some of the other potential side effects, you might notice that the alignment of your jaw has shifted since you began wearing a night guard. If you find that your jaw alignment has shifted or you’re experiencing pain in your jaw, consult with your dentist as soon as possible, as jaw misalignment can actually make bruxism worse. This can also lead to other TMJ disorders.
According to maxillofacial prosthodontist Dr. Michael R. Cortese, sometimes night guards “cause[s] the posterior teeth to touch the guard’s plastic while the anterior teeth hardly touch the guard or do not touch it at all. The unevenness of tooth contact with the night guard can lead to even more clenching, grinding and TMJ problems.”
After consulting with your dentist, you might find that a softer or harder night guard is a better fit for you. It might also be the case that you need to have new impressions taken. Fit is key, and the sooner you take care of any negative side effects, the better off you’ll be.
The bottom line
Night guards are an excellent tool for people who find themselves clenching their jaw or grinding their teeth at night. If you find yourself experiencing any of the negative side effects of wearing a night guard, your best bet is always to consult with your dentist. In most cases, taking a new impression and perfecting the fit of your night guard solves the problem.
At Pro Teeth Guard, we guarantee perfect fit and comfort, so if you are experiencing any of these problems with one of our night guards, we want to make it right. Your oral health is of the utmost importance to us. If minor discomfort is turning into pain or something just doesn’t feel right, it’s time to reevaluate the fit and style of your night guard.