A dental guard is basically a mouth guard that an athlete might wear, expect you’d wear it while you sleep. The biggest difference is that a dental guard is customized to your mouth in order to prevent bruxism (grinding your teeth while you sleep).
There are different types with varying specificities — some are simple plastic guards while others are made by a dental professional. No matter what kind it is, every guard is supposed to do the same thing.
Dental Guard Types
The three main types of dental guards are disposable dental guards, boil-and-bite dental guards, and customized dental guards from a professional.
Disposable Dental Guards
These are one-use plastic guards that last about a week or two and are meant for those with light bruxism. You typically buy a pack of them and replace the guard once it wears down too far.
These are super affordable and good for a quick solution, maybe while you wait for an appointment with a dentist. They’re great for travelling, and many people find them comfortable because they’re so thin. Plus, recycling them after use is hygienic.
However, you may want to treat these as interim night guards — they’re not meant for long-term use. They’re thinness makes them comfortable, but it also means they wear down quickly, depending on the severity of a person’s bruxism.
They can also easily fall out of place causing you to choke or simply lose the preventive effects of them.
Boil-And-Bite Dental Guards
As the name suggests, these dental guards require you to boil them before use (the directions for how long will be included with the guards). The idea is that the boiling softens the material, which you then bite into in order to make a perfect imprint of your teeth. This gives you a custom-fit guard that’s more affordable than a professionally done night guard.
Boil-and-bite dental guards will last longer than the disposable guards, and you usually get two in a pack in case you make a mistake with the first one or if you need a replacement. Because they are customized, they should stay on better through the night, but they are mainly for those with moderate bruxism.
Like disposable guards, boil-and-bite guards don’t support your jaw, meaning long-term use of these can lead to jaw issues like TMJ dysfunction.
Customized Dental Guards
The third option is to get a dental guard through your dentist. Although this is the most expensive option, is the most effective and longest lasting. The dentist would have you bite down on a clay material to get a precise replica of your teeth. That mold would then go to a lab where they would make a custom-fit night guard for you.
The nice thing about this method is that the dentist can adjust the thickness of the guard depending on the severity of your bruxism. And they can also make sure it’s as comfortable as possible. The dentists can make a guard for the upper and lower teeth, providing extra protection against grinding. And, maybe most importantly, these night guards support the jaw.
However, this may require multiple visits to the dentist. It can also get very pricey because insurance does not always cover the costs — a customized dental guard can cost between $300 and $700.
General Pros & Cons Of Dental Guards
Let’s look at the general benefits and downsides of dental guards, regardless of what type you get.
- Helps fight the effects of teeth grinding
- Can help reduce pain related to bruxism
- Can be costly, whether it’s a customize guard or if you have to keep buying one-use guards
- Can be uncomfortable to have a bulky prosthesis in your mouth while you sleep
Why Are Less People Using Dental Guards For Teeth Grinding?
Dental guards used to be the main solution for teeth grinding. It was the go-to for many people and dental professionals.
But that’s not the case today. Dental guards have actually gotten less popular now that we know more about the connection between teeth grinding and sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is when the throat muscles relax after falling asleep, making it difficult to breathe. These two conditions have been connected with the idea that grinding your teeth your brain telling your jaws to move around in order to clear your airways.
And now bruxism is solved by treating sleep apnea. Basically, bruxism is often corrected by wearing a sleep apnea mask connected to a machine that helps the person breathe properly.
Dental Night Guard Side Effects
On top dental guards losing popularity in light of new information, there are concerns in using them.
Here are the three main side effects of using a dental night guard.
This is the most common side effect of using a night guard. At the same time, it’s the side effect that is least worrisome. The guard can put pressure on your teeth which can cause soreness.
TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is the jaw joint, and night guards can lead to soreness in that joint. Many guards move the lower jaw slightly forward in order to open up the airways. This offsettedness of the jaw joint can lead to pain in the TMJ.
If this occurs, a dentist can help adjust the guard to lessen the discomfort. But sometimes, a mouth guard can cause long-term soreness, especially in people who have previously had TMJ issues.
Bite Changes And Teeth Movement
We mentioned how many night guards work by moving the lower jaw slightly forward. On top of TMJ issues, this method can also lead the teeth to move and even change your bite over time because the jaw muscles may permanently reposition the jaw.
There are, however, jaw exercises you can do to greatly cut down the chances of bite changes or teeth movement.
The Best Dental Guards Reviews
If you do decide to get a dental guard or if your dentist recommends it (maybe because your bruxism is cause by something other than sleep apnea), here are some of the best dental guards on the market.
Dental Duty claims they are the only company to offer four mouthguards in two different sizes that are FDA approved. These are BPA free, and it has a layer below the guard to help prevent wearing away.
A team of dentists developed The Doctor’s NightGuard using a patented double-layer design to prevent the guard from wearing down. Thanks to this, the company says one dental guard should last about six months.
Dentek states that they are the ones to offer an over-the-counter dental guard that includes a forming tray. Their Dental Guard is BPA and latex free, and it comes with an antimicrobial case for storage.
ProDental claims to offer the only dental guards that you can mold that also come with direct support from dentists. For example, they say that if you need help molding and fitting the guard, you can contact one of ProDental’s dentists by phone, email, or in-person at a lab. Plus, they say these night guards will last about one year.
The thing that makes Plackers’ Dental Night Guards unique is that they can mold to either the top or bottom teeth, meaning you can do whichever is more comfortable. These disposable guards last about three days.
The main characteristic of SleepRight’s BPA- and latex-free Dental Guard that they boast about is its strength. Although they don’t state how long each guard will last, they say it will last longer than the leading competitor.
Oral B has quite the reputation, so of course their Nighttime Dental Guard would be one of the most trusted night guards on the market. It’s a one-size-fits-all guard and comes with a storage case.
- The three main types of dental guards are disposable, boil-and-bite, and customized from a dentist. Each have pros and cons.
- Dental night guards can help prevent the effects of teeth grinding, but they can also be very uncomfortable.
- Dental guards are much less popular than they used to be because bruxism often turns out to be a symptom of sleep apnea.
- Unfortunately, dental night guards can lead to tooth soreness, jaw pain, and even teeth and bite movement.
- If you need a dental guard for problems not caused by sleep apnea, you can find some good dental guards online.