A whitening tray looks pretty similar to a night guard; they’re both dental appliances that cover your teeth for your oral health. You might wonder “ can I use my teeth whitening trays as a night guard?” After all, why would you waste money on both when it seems like you can use one appliance for whitening and teeth grinding. While the appliances may look similar, they are not designed to serve the same function. Whitening trays are simply designed to hold whitening gels, while night guards are designed to protect your teeth from bruxism and reduce the pressure from grinding.
What is a Whitening Tray?
A teeth whitening tray is an oral appliance that is designed to hold whitening gel on your teeth. Typically, you’ll place whitening gel in the guard, and then place it on your teeth. Some teeth whitening trays also use an LED light to assist the bleach agent in the gel. While they create an easy and convenient way to whiten your teeth, that is their only purpose. Because these trays are solely designed to keep whitening gel on your teeth, they are not made of particularly durable nor thick material.
What is a Night Guard?
A night guard is an oral appliance used to mitigate the effects of bruxism, which is a condition that is thought to plague around ten percent of the population. When these people grind and clench their teeth at night, their jaws, teeth, and facial muscles suffer; this is where a night guard comes in.
A mouth guard for bruxism works by creating a barrier between teeth, thus reducing grinding’s harmful effects, such as tooth and jaw pain, tooth damage, and headaches. It also reduces the force at which people exert their jaw muscles.
Can I Wear a Whitening Tray as a Night Guard?
Although teeth whitening trays and night guards seem similar, they are not interchangeable. Below are some reasons why you cannot use a whitening tray as a night guard:
- Whitening trays are typically too loose; they may slide around in your mouth and thus would not provide consistent, even coverage for bruxism. It’s likely a whitening tray might even fall out of your mouth at night.
- Whitening trays don’t cover the whole bite surface; they often only cover the portion of your smile that is visible, meaning the molars aren’t covered. This can lead to uneven pressure that causes dysfunction in your temporomandibular joint if you attempt to use whitening trays as a night guard. Over an extended period of time, this can even lead to changes in your teeth.
- Whitening trays are not durable enough because they are only designed to hold whitening gel, not to protect your teeth. This soft material might even encourage you to chew on the tray.
If you try wearing a night guard and then switch it out for a whitening tray, you’ll probably realize pretty quickly why a whitening tray will not protect your teeth the way a night guard will.
Can I Use a Night Guard as a Whitening Tray?
Similarly, it would not be wise to use your night guard as a whitening tray for the following reasons:
- Night guards fit your teeth much more snugly than a whitening tray, leaving little to no room for whitening gel to cover your teeth.
- Many night guards do not extend all the way to your gum, which means only part of your teeth would come into contact with the whitening gel.
If you want your whitening gel to work effectively and give you that bright smile you’re looking for, it’s wise to follow every instruction in the whitening kit.
Where to Get a Night Guard
If you already have some whitening trays and have now learned that you need a night guard for bruxism, unfortunately, you’ll need to fork over the money for the new dental guard. The good news is that there are affordable ways to procure a night guard, including:
These types of night guards are designed to fit most mouths, and while they may not give you an incredibly snug fit, they’re an option if you are extremely low on cash.
Your dentist and dental office can fit you for a night guard and have it custom-made at a dental lab. This is a more expensive custom night guard option, but you may be able to get some or all of the cost covered by insurance.
This type of night guard is the same high quality you would get from your dentist’s office. It is fabricated in a dental lab using an impression of your teeth. A Custom fit mouth guard online is often cheaper than getting a night guard from your dentist’s office, and you might also be able to get some of the cost covered by your dental insurance.
Regardless of where you get your night guard, be sure to use it every night and clean it every morning when you wake up.