Wearing a thick night guard may feel weird at first, but that bulk serves an important purpose. After all, night guards work by forming a barrier. They protect your teeth by reducing the contact between your top and bottom teeth and preventing teeth clenching and grinding. Both the design of the night guard and the materials that it's made from impact its effectiveness, so you’ll need to consider both of these factors when choosing a nightguard. Of course, the intensity of your bruxism is also a vital factor to consider when selecting a night guard with a suitable night guard thickness to manage your bruxism.
How do you find the right night guard for your needs? It helps to explore what each night guard is designed to do. Then, consider carefully what your needs are so that you can identify which product is the best match for them. Finally, review the tips for adjusting to a new night guard.
How Thick Should a Dental Night Guard Be?
Different bruxers have different needs. Night guards come in a variety of styles to meet the needs of each individual teeth grinder or clencher. Someone who suffers from severe bruxism needs a heavy-duty night splint that's crafted from thick, durable materials. On the other hand, a person who engages in light teeth grinding doesn't need as much protection, so they are more likely to use something thinner and softer. In general, a night guard for bruxism should be between 1 and 3 mm thick.
Everyone’s experience with bruxism is different, and as such, your night guard should reflect the uniqueness of your condition. There are night guards of varying thickness and materials based on the severity-level of jaw clenching and grinding: light bruxism, moderate bruxism, and severe bruxism.
- Soft Night Guard: At 1.5 mm thick, the soft night guard is crafted from a soft rubber material. This product is designed to protect against light to moderate grinding and clenching.
- Hard Night Guard: Also measuring 1.5 mm thick, the hard night guard is made from a tough, durable elasticized acrylic. It's built to stand up against heavy grinding and clenching.
- Hybrid Night Guard: The hybrid night guard is made from a dual-laminate material and is 2mm thick. It combines a tough outer layer with a soft interior to deliver the optimal mix of durability and comfort. It's designed to withstand moderate teeth grinding.
- Ultra-thin Daytime Guard: The ultra-thin daytime guard is discreet, measuring at a mere 1 mm thick. As the name implies, it's meant to be worn during the day to protect against daytime grinding. However, it is not usually worn overnight because it is not made with the durability of a night guard. Heavy bruxers will grind through the ultra-thin daytime guard quickly if it is worn overnight.
With any of these night guards, you'll have the option of selecting an upper or lower guard. Over 90% of people opt for a guard that's fitted to their upper teeth. It's less likely to get in the way of the tongue, so it's generally more comfortable. However, if you've had extensive dental work on your upper teeth, you might prefer a guard that's fitted to your lower teeth.
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Can a Mouth Guard be Too Thick?
Night guards that are thicker than 3mm can cause discomfort because they take up too much space in the mouth. Night guards that are too thick also make it difficult to close your lips over the guard. In addition to discomfort, mouth guards can also cause occlusal issues. If a mouth guard takes up too much space in the mouth, the top and bottom teeth will be forced to separate in a way that can lead to strain on TMJ. A study conducted in 2008 found that as night guard thickness increased, so did energy absorption. However, “a further increase in the thickness from 4 mm to 5 mm and 6 mm tended to yield a smaller improvement in energy absorption”. So, an increase of thickness from 1 to 3 mm increases the protection of the teeth, but thickness of 4 to 6 mm does not improve protection, and as such, is unnecessary in treating bruxism or TMJ. Bottom line, you want to select the best fit mouth guard for your condition to ensure comfort and prevent any future jaw pain.
Selecting the Right Thickness
Some people brux without noticing. They discover that they have a problem when their dentist points to the dental damage or when they wake up feeling fatigued from lack of sleep. For others, bruxism is more evident because it’s associated with painful conditions like TMJ or sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
When selecting a night guard, it's essential to consider the severity of your bruxism. As a general rule of thumb, the more severe your bruxism is, the more your night guard thickness will probably need to be to protect your teeth from harsh grinding and clenching. However, the design and material also play a role. Better designs may allow for night guards to be thinner. Likewise, harder materials can withstand more force.
When selecting the thickness of your night guard, resist choosing the thinnest possible simply because you believe it will be the most comfortable. Identify your level of bruxism and make a purchase accordingly. Consult your dentist if you are unsure of your level of bruxism as they will provide insight and recommendations for the best night guard thickness for you.
Tips for Adjusting to a Night Guard
When you're choosing a night guard, don't rush. Take some time to research the different fits available. Think about what is likely to work for you. In addition to night guard thickness, consider if you would prefer an upper or lower night guard. Then, choose a custom night guard, and opt for the thinnest model that's a match for your needs. Once it arrives, remember that getting used to a new night guard can take four to six weeks of consistent use. Don't be surprised if it feels weird at first. If you’re having a hard time adjusting to your new mouth guard, try these tips:
- Wear the night guard consistently for at least four to six weeks to allow it to become routine. Once wearing it becomes a habit, it is much easier to get used to. Additionally, in this time, it is likely that your painful symptoms will begin to subside.
- If discomfort is a problem, wait to put the night guard in until just before you go to bed. If the night guard really bothers you, don't pop it in until just before bed and take it out as soon as you wake up.
- Alternately, some patients have found success by wearing the night guard for brief periods during the day to get used to how it feels in your mouth.
Over-the-counter Night Guards Vs. Custom-fit Night Guards
What about over-the-counter night guards? While they may seem like a cheaper alternative, they do not have the durability of custom fit night guards, especially for moderate or heavy grinders. Consider this:
- Over-the-counter night guards are generic, one-size-fits-all products. They're cheaply made from inferior materials that don't last, especially under heavy use. They're often bulkier and use a boil-and-bite method of fitting that makes them less comfortable and can cause jaw pain or soreness.
- Custom-fit night guards are crafted in a dental lab from medical-grade materials. They may have a higher initial price tag, but the increased durability and lifespan helps to offset it. They're also made to fit an impression of your teeth, so they're thinner and more comfortable.
While everyone's bruxism is different, one thing is consistently true: a night guard only works if you wear it. Choosing a custom-fit night guard that's more comfortable and durable makes sense. Howard E. Strassler, DMD, explains, “Preventive intervention is necessary to avoid further wear and destruction of teeth and restorations. Using a nightguard, the patient can protect his or her teeth from uncontrolled wear due to bruxism” (2008). To purchase a custom fit night guard you can visit your dentist or order one through an online retailer who will ship an impression kit right to your door.
A thick night guard may feel odd at first. However, that thickness is part of how this oral appliance does its job. Understanding the balance between thickness and material and how to select the right night guard thickness for your level of bruxism can help you feel confident when shopping for your custom night guard. While it is perfectly normal to experience some discomfort while adjusting to a new night guard, it should not be painful. If discomfort turns into pain, discuss it with your dentist or have another teeth impression made to achieve the perfect fit. At Pro Teeth Guard, we deliver custom-fit mouthguards at affordable prices. Each of our night guards is made in a professional dental lab and guaranteed to fit comfortably with our 110% money-back guarantee. Our custom fit mouthguards are made with safe, bpa-free materials.
- Maeda, M., Takeda, T., Nakajima, K., Shibusawa, M., Kurokawa, K., Shimada, A., … Ishigami, K. (2008). In Search of Necessary Mouthguard Thickness. Part 1: From the Viewpoint of Shock Absorption Ability. J-Stage. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jjps/52/2/52_2_211/_article/-char/ja/
- Strassler, H. E. (2008). Preventative Intervention for Bruxism, 1–11. https://dentalacademyofce.com/courses/2051/PDF/1103cei_preventive_inter.pdf