If you’re reading this article, it’s probably because you’ve been told at a recent dentist appointment that you need a dental mouth guard because you’re a teeth grinder. The purpose of a night guard when you have bruxism (teeth grinding and clenching) is to lessen the side effects of teeth grinding and clenching and to protect your teeth from damage. A night guard doesn’t stop bruxism, but it can stop the negative symptoms such as jaw pain or headaches.
When your dentist assesses your oral health, he or she will be able to tell you whether you need a night guard or not, as he or she will be able to see signs of grinding or clenching in your mouth, such as worn, cracked, or chipped teeth. According to the American Dental Association, “Regular dental checkups are important to detect damage in the early stages. Your dentist can diagnose and treat irregular wear on teeth.”
A night guard isn’t the only way to treat bruxism, however, so talk to your dentist about whether you need one, or if you should try other remedies to stop your grinding. In some cases, bruxism is thought to be caused by sleep apnea, stress, or certain medications. Taking care of those causes could also take care of your bruxism, so you’ll want to work with your dentist and doctor to try to get to the bottom of the cause in addition to protecting your teeth with a night guard.
What it’s like to get a mouth guard fitted at the dentist’s office
I personally had a night guard fitted at the dentist and while the process wasn’t awful, it certainly wasn’t the most exciting thing I’ve ever done, either. More than anything, getting a night guard from the dentist wasted a lot of my time. The whole process required three or four appointments by the time it was all said and done, and putting your life aside to go to the dentist that many times isn’t easy for anybody.
Your first night guard visit
The first step to getting your night guard made at your dentist’s office is having your impressions taken. Your dentist or dental hygienist will first put a gooey substance into a tray. Then, he or she will press the substance against your upper teeth or lower teeth. The impression needs to go all the way to your rear teeth, so it might feel uncomfortable or like your mouth is really full. I remember the tray feeling really big and bulky in my mouth, but I never felt like I was choking or I couldn’t breathe, and it was only in my mouth for around five minutes.
Your dentist or dental hygienist will hold the tray on your teeth until the gooey substance begins to harden, pressing on it every so often to see if it is hard enough. Once it hardens, he or she will pull the tray off your teeth and help you remove any remaining pieces of the impression material.
After the impressions are taken, your dentist will send them away to a lab that will create your custom fit night guard. This is the easiest part, as you just wait! My night guard took a couple weeks to come in.
Your second night guard visit
When your night guard comes in, you’ll schedule a second visit so you can try on your night guard and your dentist can check the fit. Regardless of whether you have an upper or lower night guard, your dentist will see where your opposite teeth lie when you bite down.
He or she will also ask you about the comfort of your night guard. If there are any spots that are rubbing or that feel uncomfortable, he or she might grind them down.
Your third night guard visit
When I got my night guard from my dentist, I had a third visit just to perfect the fit. My dentist told me to go home and wear it for a while, and to come back with any concerns or uncomfortable fits. In my case, there were a few parts on the night guard that felt unnaturally thick when I bit down. My dentist was able to grind those parts down so my fit felt more comfortable.
If you’ve been wearing your night guard for a few weeks and are experiencing pain or your night guard is extremely uncomfortable, it’s very important to have the fit reevaluated. Your night guard might feel strange at first, but in time you should get used to it, and it shouldn’t cause you pain.
Your night guard options
Your night guard options include:
- A custom fit night guard made at the dentist
- A custom fit night guard you can order online
- An over the counter one size fits all night guard
The night guard you have created by your dentist will be a professionally made custom mouth guard. Depending on your situation and the severity of your bruxism, it might be made of hard plastic, a softer rubbery material, or a hybrid combination of the two. Some night guards made of harder material are made of what’s called thermoplastic. This material becomes softer in hot or warm water, so the night guard can be made more comfortable by running it under warm or hot water before placing it in your mouth. This allows the material to mold to your teeth better.
While most people wear their night guard on their top teeth, some people also wear them on their bottom teeth. Your dentist may recommend one over the other depending on your situation. You might also request one over the other if one feels more comfortable to you.
Another night guard option is an over the counter night guard. These are similar to the mouth guards you might have worn for sports, but they are designed to protect your teeth from clenching and grinding. An over the counter night guard might save you some time and money, but it won’t protect your teeth as well as a custom-fit night guard. Over the counter night guards are designed to fit all mouths, so the reality is that they just won’t fit your own mouth perfectly.
Custom-fit night guards might cost a little bit more, but because they are designed to fit your mouth perfectly, they’ll do a better job of protecting your teeth, and they’ll probably last longer as well. Surprisingly, you don’t need to visit your dentist to have a custom-fit night guard made; with an at home impression kit, you can take your own impressions and have a perfectly fit night guard delivered right to your home.
Cost of a dental guard
Depending on the type of night guard you decide to purchase, your cost will vary. The most expensive option is typically a custom-fit night guard bought via your dentist. Your night guard could cost up to $1,000, and don’t forget to factor in any charges your dentist bills for your office visits. Some insurance plans cover night guards while others don’t, so this cost could be extensively reduced; check with your dental insurance provider to find out more about your plan’s coverage.
Related Article: Does Dental Insurance Cover Night Guards?
Ordering a custom-fit night guard online can save you a lot of money, particularly for people whose insurance doesn’t cover night guards. At Pro Teeth Guard, our mouth guards range from $160-$200.
Over-the-counter night guards can cost as little as $15, which is definitely a money saver. If you decide to go that route, be aware that the material might not be as durable and the mouth guard won’t be a perfect match for your teeth.
How to keep your night guard in good shape
Once you decide on the type of mouth guard you want to go with, you need to keep it clean and in good shape. When you neglect your night guard hygiene, you leave it vulnerable to bacteria and you reduce its lifespan.
Keeping it in good shape is simple, however. Each morning when you take it out, brush it with a soft toothbrush and toothpaste. Once per week, give it a deeper cleaning with denture or mouth guard cleaner. My dentist also gives my night guard a deep cleaning every six months when I come in for a cleaning.
The bottom line
While somewhat inconvenient and expensive, getting a night guard from the dentist is worthwhile. Because a night guard protects your teeth, it can potentially save you from more invasive dental procedures in the future. Taking care of your bruxism sooner rather than later can also prevent more serious conditions, such as TMJ. I still clench my teeth at night even with my night guard, but I don’t have sore jaw muscles and I know that my teeth are protected.
At Pro Teeth Guard, you can get a professional quality, custom dental night guard by ordering online. You take your impressions with an easy to use home impression kit, and we craft a night guard that’s perfectly fitted to your teeth. We use the same materials and process as a night guard you get at the dentist. To learn more, click here to see how it works.