Wearing a properly sized night guard can promote better oral health by protecting your mouth from the harmful effects of teeth grinding, like headaches, jaw pain, and sleep disruption. You’ve had your night guard for some time, and you’ve followed the care instructions to the letter. However, you wonder when to replace your mouth guard and how long does a night guard last?
First, remember each type of night guard has its own lifespan of usefulness, and much of this will depend on how severely you grind your teeth and how well you care for your night guard. But as a general guideline, you should replace your night guard when the device shows obvious signs of wear:
- The night guard no longer fits your mouth very well
- You notice cracks, tears, or holes in the night guard
- The cracked guard has caused irritating mouth sores
- The night guard doesn’t protect your teeth from grinding damage
How Dental Night Guards Work
Let’s back up for a moment and review why you’re using a night guard in the first place. Remember, a well-fitted dental, long-lasting night guard can stop nighttime teeth grinding or clenching in its tracks. The longer your night guard lasts, the longer amount of time you don’t need to worry about your teeth grinding symptoms.
Also known as bruxism, this relatively common condition most frequently results from anxiety and stress. Other causes include caffeine, cigarettes, snoring, sleep apnea, crooked teeth, and an abnormal bite.
Bruxism can damage your occlusal tooth surfaces, or those surfaces used for grinding or chewing. Your molars are especially at risk. Long-term bruxism can result in loss of tooth enamel, cracked or broken teeth, or even loss of one or more teeth. These negative outcomes can affect your overall dental health.
Bruxism can also play a role in the development of temporomandibular joint (or TMJ) syndrome. And, bruxism’s damaging pressure on your jaw and teeth can lead to the development of gum disease. To make matters worse, you could wake up with facial and/or jaw pain or be plagued by a dull headache.
While reading this, you may have started remembering the discomfort and pain you felt from before you had a night guard. If you understand how long that device lasts, you can minimize the gaps in your treatment and keep those symptoms at bay.
How a Night Guard Can Treat Bruxism
A high-quality dental night guard can help protect your teeth and relieve your physical discomfort.
Your dentist likely prescribed a dental guard following a bruxism diagnosis, states the American Dental Association. This custom-crafted device slides over either your upper or lower teeth and completely prevents any contact with teeth on the opposing side. This relieves harmful clenching and grinding pressure.
A long-lasting night guard is an important tool in fighting bruxism and preserving your dental health. New York City dentist Marc Lazare, DDS, MAGD, emphasizes, “Whether you have all natural teeth or have just spent a small fortune restoring or cosmetically enhancing your smile, a night guard may be the best way to look after your investment.”
Even after you understand the necessity for a night guard, you may want to know how long to expect your night guard to last. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of night guards and their lifespans.
Finding the Best Night Guard for Your Needs
Three types of night guards, each designed to treat a specific degree of bruxism, are available on a custom-fit basis. Remember, the type of night guard is only one factor in its longevity. Severity of teeth grinding and attention spent cleaning the night guard also impact its lifespan.
Soft Night Guard:
The most common type, a soft night guard is geared to a mild teeth grinder. Although it’s comfortable and inexpensive, a soft mouth guard isn’t very durable, as some people chew or clench the pliable material.
These soft-material guards aren’t designed to last a long time. A soft night guard should last for six months to one year.
Dual-Laminate Night Guard:
Designed for moderate or heavy teeth grinders, this guard features a hard exterior and soft interior. The soft interior provides comfort while the hard exterior improves durability. Expect a dual laminate night guard to last for one to three years, depending on the tooth-grinding severity.
Hard Night Guard:
Made from a durable acrylic material, these rigid night guards are designed for severe teeth grinders and can prevent teeth from shifting positions. A hard night guard can withstand heavy to extreme teeth grinding behavior. This extremely rugged night guard should last for two to five years.
TMJ Night Guards, Athletic Mouth Guards, and Retainers
Although each type of night guard has different features and is designed for a specific degree of bruxism, they all serve the same purpose. Three other types of mouth inserts can also play a role in good dental health. Let’s take a closer look at each guard and how long each one typically lasts.
TMJ Night Guard:
TMJ disorder and bruxism have similar symptoms, and your dentist can treat each condition with a well-fitted night guard. However, the TMJ mouth guard functions quite differently than a bruxism night guard.
The rigid, acrylic TMJ night guard helps to reposition the jaw and elevate the bite, which should generally improve your symptoms. A mouth guard for TMJ must stay in a specific position to be effective, so your dentist will need to make several adjustments before finding the right spot. Because of this, TMJ patients should work with their dentist rather than ordering a night guard online.
The type of TMJ night guard you purchase will determine its longevity. An over-the-counter guard will not last as long as a custom-fit night guard, and more serious grinding or clenching will shorten the night guard’s lifespan.
Athletic Mouth Guard:
If you play a high-contact or fast-paced sport, your dentist may prescribe an athletic mouthguard to protect your mouth and teeth from damage related to that sport. Made from a thicker (but softer) material, this guard protects your teeth and gums from hard, sudden impacts.
The more regularly you wear your athletic mouthguard, the sooner you’ll need to replace it. It’s time for a new athletic mouthguard when one of the following occurs:
- You’ve used it daily for six months
- You start noticing cracks, fraying, or deformities in your mouthguard
- It no longer covers all the outer surfaces of your teeth.
While important for former braces wearers, retainers are not mouthguards. A custom-crafted retainer, generally made of clear plastic or thin wire, holds your teeth in position after they’ve been realigned with braces. After the braces are removed, the retainer helps the tissues and bone surrounding your teeth settle into their new positions.
Your retainer’s longevity depends on a few factors: how well you care for it and whether it’s bonded or removable. A bonded retainer is intended to be permanent, so there’s no need to worry unless part of it breaks. And if you regularly clean your custom-fit, removable retainer and protect it when you don’t wear it, it could last for up to 10 years.
Related Article: Night Guard vs Retainer
Over-the-Counter Night Guard vs Custom Night Guard
If you’re in the market for a night guard, you might be tempted to save some cash by buying one over the counter (OTC) at your local pharmacy. However, this one-size-fits-all guard probably won’t fit your mouth, and it’s bulkier than necessary, making it tough to close your mouth.
Because an OTC night guard isn’t custom-fitted to your mouth, it can easily pop out, and you’ll find it on your pillow in the morning. If the guard isn’t correctly aligned and you keep grinding on it, it can damage your teeth. More importantly, an OTC night guard has a very short shelf life, frequently lasting just one to three months before beginning to fall apart.
In contrast, a high-quality custom-fitted night guard is made of top-notch materials, so it will be far more durable and present a better overall value. And, because this guard is molded to your mouth, it will play an important role in resolving your bruxism issues.
Related Article: Dental Night Guard Side Effects
Night Guard Maintenance Guidelines
Keeping your night guard clean will help to extend its useful life. To that end, gently scrub your night guard with toothpaste and a toothbrush every morning. Store the night guard in a container filled with cold tap water. Change the water every day to ward off bacteria growth.
Don’t use alcohol-based cleaners, as they can considerably shorten your night guard’s useful life. For a weekly deep cleaning, place a denture-cleaning tablet in the night guard’s water-filled storage container.
In addition, keep your night guard’s storage case clean, as that can help to reduce the chances of contamination and potential oral infection. Wash the case with hot, soapy water before each use. Rinse and dry the case before placing the night guard inside.
Every week, inspect your night guard for damage. If the device has been damaged, small pieces could break off and injure your mouth. So, stop using the night guard, and purchase a new one. Finally, take the night guard to every dental checkup, as that gives your dentist an opportunity to thoroughly inspect the device.
Related Article: Does Dental Insurance Cover Night Guards?
Find a Night Guard to Stand the Test of Time
Again, a night guard’s useful life depends largely on the severity of your tooth-grinding behavior. The type of night guard is also a major factor in its longevity. But on average, night guards can last from six months to several years.
When you invest in a mouthguard, it’s best to only make that purchase once. So, if you’re tempted to spring for an inexpensive, over-the-counter night guard, trust us. It’s better to shell out a bit more and maintain a mouthguard designed to fit your teeth than it is to constantly replace the device.
If you’re looking for a custom-fit night guard that’s cheaper than those made by dentists, Pro Teeth Guard offers custom-fit mouth guards online for affordable prices. Our night guards are made in a professional dental lab using the same materials and process as a night guard from the dentist.
Now that you understand the differences between night guard types and how long each night guard lasts, you’re ready to find your night guard and start protecting your oral health.
- American Dental Association: Do You Grind Your Teeth? - https://www.ada.org
- American Sleep Association: Night Guard for Bruxism: Teeth Grinding and Clenching - sleepassociation.org
- Klinik Pergigian Fauziah: Do I need a Retainer or a Night Guard? - drfauziah.com
- What are Night Guards, and Why Are They Important? - drmarclazare.com
- Implant Dentistry and Periodontics: Bruxism and Gum Disease - indyimplants.com
- Medical News Today: What Is Bruxism, or Teeth Grinding? - medicalnewstoday.com
- Anderson Dental Care: Over-the-CounterNight Guards vs Custom Night Guards - atowndental.com