When you're a health-conscious person, you tend to think carefully about the material of the mouth guard made by your dentist, because you understand that your choices can have a real impact on your well-being. If you're using a night guard for bruxism, then it's only natural to wonder: What are night guards made of?
Dental night guards go by many names. You might hear them referred to as mouth guards, bite guards, bite splints, occlusal guards, occlusal splints, or orthodontic appliances. Whatever you choose to call these handy dental devices, one thing is clear: They're effective in treating bruxism, temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or TMD), and other similar conditions. If you grind or clench your teeth, wearing the right custom-fit night guard can help relieve facial and jaw pain and prevent dental damage. So, what are mouth guards made of? That depends on your night guard. After all, there are different types of custom-fit night guards for different levels of bruxism, and the materials inside them vary.
Are Night Guard Materials Safe?
Custom-fit night guards are crafted to fit over either your upper teeth or lower teeth. When worn, they put a protective barrier between your teeth, preventing damage from teeth grinding and clenching. Of course, it is only natural to want to know what is in the device that goes in your mouth. What are the chemicals you should be wary of as you look for the right night guard?
It's no surprise that sensible people want to limit their exposure to bisphenol A, or BPA. This chemical is used to harden plastics, and has been linked to various cancers, hormone level issues, cardiovascular problems, brain and behavioral issues, and other worrisome health problems. The Mayo Clinic states, “Exposure to BPA is a concern because of possible health effects of BPA on the brain and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children. It can also affect children’s behavior. Additional research suggests a possible link between BPA and increased blood pressure”. BPA is found in a wide range of manufactured products: food cans, plastic containers, water bottles, and dental sealants, among others.
Could BPA be in your night guard? Most custom-fit night guards that are made in the United States are BPA-free. However, some imported products may still contain this chemical. A safe night guard is a BPA-free night guard, so you'll want to pay attention when shopping for your night guard. More often than not, online retailers will notify you if their mouth guards are BPA-free.
Methyl methacrylate, or MMA, got a bad name in the 1970s because patrons of nail salons made complaints about nail damage. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration stepped in, forbidding the continued use of the chemical in those conditions. Those nail injuries were caused by a direct application of liquid MMA to the skin and nail bed. Today, MMA is utilized in the production of plexiglass, plumbing fixtures, bathroom and light fixtures, medical cement for bone replacements, and acrylic dental appliances. However, there's no need for consumers to worry. While workers who produce the items must proceed with appropriate caution around the chemical, these items are properly cured before they reach the public.
When it comes to MMA, this chemical may be found inside a hard night guard, but it isn't cause for concern because the irritation of the nails was a result of MMA being applied as a liquid to the nails. Acrylic appliances produced by professional dental labs undergo curing processes, so there is no risk of exposure.
Often called plasticizers, phthalates are chemicals that increase the flexibility of plastic, making it harder to break. They're used in everything from medical supplies to children's toys. The CDC states, “Some types of phthalates have affected the reproductive system in animals. Human health effects from exposure to low levels of phthalates are not as clear. More research is needed to assess the human health effects of exposure to phthalates”. Essentially, the impact of phthalates on humans is under researched. An article discussing phthalates and other plastic additives expresses the importance for more non-experimental research: “there is a great need for more human studies of adverse health effects associated with plastic additives” (Meeker, et al. 2009).
Nightguards with thermoplastic qualities tend to contain phthalates. It's worth noting that some of these chemicals are considered safer than others. To limit your risk, you can either choose a night guard that is phthalates-free or opt for one with a phthalate that is deemed safer.
Types of Custom-fit Night Guards
Custom-fit night guards start with an impression of your teeth. The impression is sent to a dental laboratory where experts use professional techniques and top-quality materials to craft a superior product. It's the process that your dentist uses when you order a night guard through their practice, and it's the process used when you order through a trusted online retailer like Pro Teeth Guard.
Why are custom-fit night guards recommended by dentists instead of the over-the-counter night guards you might see in the drug store? Over-the-counter night guards are either generic “one-size-fits-all or boil-and-bite. Generic mouth guards will not fit your mouth and teeth the way a custom fit night guard is designed to. The American Dental Association explains the limitations of this kind of guard, “Because it is only available in a limited range of sizes, requires the mouth to be shut to keep it in place, and is not adapted to the user’s mouth, research suggest it is the least effective type of mouth guard” (2019). Boil-and-bite guards do have customization in that they allow you to boil the guard in hot water to mold it to the shape of your teeth; however, they are not made of durable materials. These night guards do not offer the same level of protection for grinders or clenchers who clench their lower jaw.
Custom night guards have a higher initial price tag, but they can deliver real value thanks to their comfortable fit, greater protection, and longer lifespan. There are different types of night guards for different levels of bruxism:
- Hard night guard: A hard night guard is made from a firm acrylic which is designed to withstand severe grinding and clenching. It has thermoplastic qualities that allow you to further tailor the fit for your comfort. These guards can last for up to three years.
- Soft night guard: Soft night guards are typically only suitable for those with very mild bruxism, because they are made from flexible vinyl. The expected lifespan of this type of guard is up to two years.
- Hybrid night guard: Made from dual-laminate material, these night guards offer a mix of durability and ease that works for moderate or heavy bruxers. A hard outer layer provides strength while a soft inner heart ensures comfort. These guards can last for up to three years.
Speak with a dental professional if you are unsure if a mouth guard is the best treatment option for you. Receiving treatment for bruxism or TMJ may prevent the need for future restorative dental work for things such as broken teeth.
While you manage your oral health, it is important to be mindful of your overall health as well, so worrying about the materials of mouth guards is only natural. At Pro Teeth Guard, we're committed to providing high-quality custom-fit mouthguards at affordable prices. All of our products are BPA-free, gluten-free, and latex-free. Our hard acrylic guard does contain dialkyl phthalate, but this specific phthalate is not deemed dangerous by the CDC. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission explains, “Most o-DAP’s [dialkyl o-phthalates] have very low acute oral toxicity” (2010).
When you order from Pro Teeth Guard, your fitted night guard will be made in a professional dental lab using FDA-approved materials. It's effectively the same mouthguard that you’d receive from a dentist, and it's guaranteed to fit comfortably with our 110% money-back guarantee.
- ADA Writing Staff. (2019). Mouth Guards. American Dental Association. https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/mouthguards.
- Babich, M. A. (2010). Overview of Phthalates Toxicity. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/phthalover.pdf
- Bauer, B. A. (2021). Tips to reduce BPA exposure. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/bpa/faq-20058331
- CDC Writing Staff. (2021). Phthalates Factsheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/phthalates_factsheet.html
- Meeker, J. D., Sathyanarayana, S., & Swan, S. H. (2009). Phthalates and other additives in plastics: human exposure and associated health outcomes. The Royal Society Publishing. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rstb.2008.0268