If you’ve received a quote for a night guard from your dentist’s office, you likely had some sticker shock just like I did. A night guard will protect your teeth from your bruxism (teeth grinding and clenching), but is it really worth hundreds of dollars? In this article, we’ll share why a night guard really is worth the investment, the pros and cons of different types of night guards and comparing dentist night guard vs. over-the-counter mouth guard.
If you have bruxism, a night guard is often essential to protect your teeth. However, you should also check with your dentist or doctor to try to find the root cause of your bruxism. Sometimes, bruxism happens when people clench their teeth due to stress and anxiety. Others’ bruxism may relate to sleep apnea, and still others might never unearth their bruxism cause. A medical professional can help you determine if you have a serious underlying medical issue.
Related Article: Bruxism And Sleep Apnea
The Purpose of a Mouthguard
If you have bruxism, your dentist isn’t recommending a night guard as an easy fix. A dental night guard is designed to protect your teeth and reduce the unpleasant symptoms of bruxism. A dental guard is sometimes called a bite guard, and for good reason — it acts as a guard or cushion when you bite down to clench or grind your teeth.
When your teeth grind together, they are under stress, which can lead to worn enamel and even cracks in your teeth. You also might wake up with jaw pain, jaw soreness, or headaches. Tooth grinding is also associated with TMJ, which is a dysfunction in your jaw joint. Because a night guard cushions and protects your teeth, it reduces these symptoms and side effects, preserving your overall oral health.
The Differences Between a Dentist Night Guard and an Over-the-counter Night Guard
You might consider skipping the dentist and saving hundreds of dollars by getting an over-the-counter night guard. Before you decide, take a minute to learn the differences between the two.
Dentist Night Guard
Dentist night guards are custom-fit night guards, which means your dentist will take an impression of your teeth in the dental office and send it to a lab. The lab will then fabricate a custom night guard to exactly fit your teeth. Your dentist might also adjust the night guard once it arrives to ensure a comfortable fit. This process could take a few weeks to a month, and it could mean three or more trips to the dentist.
With dentist night guards, you have quite a few options, and your dentist will probably recommend a specific option depending on your situation. For lighter teeth clenching, your dentist might recommend a softer, more rubbery night guard. For harder clenchers or grinders, your dentist will likely recommend a hard night guard or a hybrid night guard (softer inside and hard outside).
Your dentist will also decide whether it would be better for you to have an upper or lower night guard. According to Dr. Marc Lazare, DDS, MAGD, “Some patients may have a specific preference or need to protect veneers or other dental work.” Based on your needs and your mouth’s shape, you can work with your dentist to choose an upper or lower night guard.
Over-the-counter Night Guard
There are two different types of OTC night guards: one-size-fits-all and boil and bite. One size fits all night guards are designed to fit every mouth right out of the box. It may end up fitting your teeth well, but it won’t provide as secure a fit as a custom made night guard.
Boil and bite night guards work by using heat to help mold the mouthguard to your teeth. You boil the guard and then place it on your teeth. As it hardens, it will form an impression of your teeth. This type of night guard might fit your teeth better than a one-size-fits-all guard, but again, it won’t be as snug and secure as custom mouth guards.
The durability and type of material vary from one product to the next, but the convenience of over-the-counter mouthguards can’t be denied. Available in drug stores and at online retailers like Amazon, you could have one in your hands today. Even if you decide to make the investment and get a night guard from your dentist, an OTC mouth guard could be a good option as you wait for your custom-fit night guard to be completed.
The Cost of Dentist vs Over-the-counter Night Guards
Unsurprisingly, over-the-counter night guards are cheaper than custom fit, lab-fabricated night guards you get from your dentist. Costs will range depending on many factors, but here are average costs:
- Over-the-counter night guard: $5-$100
- Dentist night guard: $400-$1,000+
The dentist night guard is pricey. But before you decide you can’t afford a custom-fit night guard, check in with your dental insurance. Coverage varies, but your dental insurance might cover some or even all of the cost. With a quick call to your dental insurance customer service, you can find out what percent of the night guard cost your insurance will cover.
Related Article: Does Dental Insurance Cover Night Guards?
What Amazon Reviewers Say About Mouthguards
Feedbacks on dentist and custom-fit night guards can help you make an informed decision on which would be best for you. Here’s what some verified purchasers on Amazon say about over-the-counter night guards:
“After three nights I believe this has really helped with my jaw soreness and popping.” S. Mills said about a one-size-fits-all night guard.
“After a month of use, I stopped using this mouthguard. It had rubbed my gums and made them sore several times,” Victoria Kinsman said about a boil and bite night guard.
“The mouth guard is easy to use and it isn't bothering even when I have this in my mouth for the whole night. It did get rid of the teeth grinding but I drool now but I guess it's better than the noise at night so I'll give it a thumbs up!” Matty said about a boil and bite night guard.
“They do stop the teeth from grinding. After just one night I can see how I was still trying to grind but the guard absorbs the damage… The only bad side is I wish these came in different sizes. They feel a little small to me and put some pressure on the gums,” P Shif said about a one-size-fits-all night guard.
Personally, as someone who got a custom-fit night guard from my dentist, I can say that my night guard fits perfectly, and I don’t wake up with a headache or sore jaw. When I first got my night guard, my dentist helped shave off any areas that were rubbing or felt uncomfortable. My night guard pops right into my mouth, and I’ve been happily and comfortably wearing it for years.
Which Night Guard Should You Choose?
As with any product, an over-the-counter night guard will work for some people but not others. When you get a custom night guard from your dentist, you know that your dentist will ensure it fits properly and won’t stop making adjustments until it’s right.
Related Article: Night Guard from Dentist: Is It Worth It?
If you choose an over-the-counter night guard, you might need to try a couple of different brands and sizes until you find one that works well for you. A frank discussion with your dentist can also give you some insight on how serious your bruxism is, and your dentist can give you insight into which option he or she thinks is most appropriate for your dental care.