Most dental appliances require an impression of your teeth, be it a custom fit night guard, occlusal splint, dentures, or retainer. In the past, going to the dental office was the only option to have an impression taken if you were a grinder, but that is no longer the case. Today, it is easy and convenient to buy custom night guards online and have an impression kit for your night guard impressions sent to your door.
Because you are in charge of taking your dental impression instead of your dentist, however, you want to make sure you do it the best way to prevent teeth grinding and clenching. A perfect impression of your teeth will create a night guard that fits well, is comfortable, and will provide a barrier when you clench or grind.
How to Take a Dental Night Guard Impression at Home
Before you learn how to take dental impressions at home, it’s important to understand that instructions and proper use may vary slightly from one impression kit to another. In general, you should brush your teeth and read the entire list of instructions before beginning the impression process. Be sure to follow the instructions provided in your kit very closely for the best results.
Below are some general steps to taking night guard impressions at home:
- Choose the correct impression tray size. If you were given more than one tray size, try out each tray before you begin mixing the putty to ensure the correct fit. The correct tray size will allow your teeth to fit inside the tray with a little bit of wiggle room. Your teeth should not touch the sides of the tray.
- Mix the putty (this step typically needs to be done quickly). Make sure the putty becomes one solid color.
- Roll the impression material or putty into a log and place it in the tray with equal thickness throughout.
- Push the tray slowly and evenly onto your lower or upper teeth. Use two hands to push the tray down, and continue to push until the putty goes past your teeth and covers your gums.
- Slowly remove the tray by pulling it straight up, leaving the putty in the tray. You may need to gently rock the tray to get the putty off your teeth.
If you follow the steps above, you should have good impressions that will make a well-fitting night guard. After you’ve taken your impressions, your custom fit mouth guard will be crafted in a dental lab.
What Does a Good Night Guard Impression Look Like?
When you’re finished, you should see clear impressions of your upper and lower teeth in the putty. Make sure you can clearly see every tooth, from your front teeth to your back molars. You should also be able to see the gums around your back molars and the palate behind your front teeth.
Inspect your impressions to ensure there is only one indentation for each tooth. You should not see multiple impressions within the putty.
While the impressions should be deep and clear, they should not be so deep that there are holes in the putty. Inspect the putty to make sure you have clear impressions with no holes.
You should also see a deep impression where each tooth’s internal and external structure is visible. If your impressions seem small or narrow, you may have waited too long to begin taking the impression. See an example below of what a good impression should look like:
Common Mistakes In Taking Dental Impressions
To achieve the best custom fit night guard, it is helpful to avoid some of the common mistakes patients make when taking their own impressions. Some common mistakes include the following:
- Double Printed Impressions: Avoid double printed impressions by pushing the impression putty into the teeth with one fluid motion. This should reveal one clear indentation for each tooth.
- Putty Isn’t Evenly Mixed: The two putties should be mixed until they blend into one color. Ensure the putty is thoroughly mixed before placing it in the tray.
- Putty Hardens Before Taking Impression: Taking impressions is time sensitive because the putty hardens fairly quickly. Generally, you should take the impression within 60 seconds of mixing the putty for best results.
- Tray Size is Too Small: Most impression kits come with multiple impression tray sizes. Choosing the correct tray size is important to achieve the best fit night guard. Ensure your teeth do not hit the outer edge of the impression tray.
Does the Impression Affect the Effectiveness of the Mouth Guard?
Getting an accurate impression is extremely important. The impression needs to be an exact model of your mouth and teeth so your new guard or splint fits snugly and performs its job. A perfect impression will protect your teeth and jaw from TMJ and bruxism and the painful symptoms that come with them. This is exactly what sets a professionally-made night guard apart from an over-the-counter, one-size-fits-all guard.
An ill-fitted night guard may be uncomfortable, which could lead to jaw pain and soreness. Any discomfort from a less than perfect night guard will make you less likely to wear the device consistently.
Additionally, a poor-fitting night guard can actually shift your teeth. According to Paul G. Mathew, MD, in an article for Harvard Health, “If a night guard doesn’t fit well, it can actually cause shifting of teeth and worsen TMJ symptoms” (2017).
By carefully following the impression instructions and inspecting your completed impressions, you can ensure you’ll have a perfectly fitted guard that protects your teeth.
Do Dental Impressions Hurt?
Although the impression process may feel uncomfortable, taking impressions should not be painful. If you tend to feel anxious at dental offices, taking impressions at home may make the whole process more comfortable for you.
Here are some other tips to make the impression process more comfortable:
- To prevent gagging, breathe through your nose and sit up while taking the impression
- If your teeth and jaw are already sore due to your bruxism, consider taking an over-the-counter pain reliever before taking your impressions
- Brush your teeth or rinse your mouth after you’re done taking impressions to remove any debris or bad taste
If you have small protrusions in your mouth, known as tori, an at-home impression kit is likely not for you. You might also want to have your impressions taken in a dental office if you have trouble opening your jaw wide enough or if you have loose teeth. In both of these cases, talk to your dentist about the best way to have impressions taken.
At Home Impressions for Bruxism
For most people, taking at home impressions for bruxism is both a cost-effective and time-effective way to protect your teeth. Before you begin taking impressions of your teeth, read all the instructions thoroughly to ensure a proper fit. A well-fitting night guard can improve your oral health and protect your teeth and jaw from the symptoms of clenching and grinding.
Pro Teeth Guard makes high-quality acrylic night guards that are BPA-free for tooth grinders. We provide hard, hybrid, and soft night guards that are professionally made, just like you would get from a dental office. Our night guards provide the durability you need to protect your teeth—all from the comfort of your own home.
- Mathew, P. G. (2017). Unlocking the lock jaw: Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) dysfunction. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/unlocking-the-lock-jaw-temporomandibular-joint-tmj-dysfunction-2017022211146
- Colgate Writing Staff. (n.d.). Getting Dental Impressions? Here's What To Expect. Colgate. https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/bridges-and-crowns/dental-impressions-what-to-expect