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What is a Night Mouth Guard?

Deanna Baranyi
Updated May 17, 2024
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People of any age can suffer from teeth clenching, teeth grinding or bruxism. It is most frequently caused by stress, anxiety, pent-up frustrations, or improper teeth alignment. Since teeth grinding is a subconscious activity, it is difficult to prevent; however, a night mouth guard is one of the easiest and most useful tools to reduce side-effects.

A night mouth guard is a pad or protective device that surrounds the teeth. It usually covers either the top or the bottom row of teeth; only rarely do people need one for both rows. Its purpose is to keep the top teeth from grinding against the bottom. It is an instant fix to teeth grinding or teeth clenching.

A night guard can be ordered from a dentist or orthodontist, or it can purchased over-the-counter from a drug store. There are a few factors to consider before purchasing one from either source:

  1. It should fit comfortably. If it is purchased from a drug store, it will not fit as well as a night mouth guard purchased from a dentist. A dentist will custom-make one so that it forms to teeth and gums perfectly. However, there are drug store brands that can be boiled and then formed inside the mouth to create a custom fit — often nearly as good as one purchased from the dentist or orthodontist.

  2. It should be made of a durable material, yet it should be soft inside the mouth. Strong plastic or rubber are great options. Typically, the more expensive the guard is, the more durable and soft it will be.

  3. When possible, use a night guard that has a double wall. It will fit better and last longer than a single wall night guard.

Using a night mouth guard is important for several reasons. For one, it will protect the enamel of your teeth. It will also prevent chipped teeth — a symptom of bruxism. In addition, the mouth guard will help prevent headaches and pains in the jaw — other symptoms of bruxism. One of the best reasons to wear a mouth guard at night is to provide a great night’s sleep, free from the effects of teeth grinding.

It is important to discuss all options with a reputable dentist or orthodontist. Although in many cases, a night mouth guard may be the perfect solution, in other cases, there are better solutions — such as hypnotherapy or behavior management classes. Only an open line of communication will resolve the problem and prevent deeper issues from forming.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Deanna Baranyi
By Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi, a freelance writer and editor with a passion for the written word, brings a diverse skill set to her work. With degrees in relevant fields and a keen ability to understand and connect with target audiences, she crafts compelling copy, articles, and content that inform and engage readers.
Discussion Comments
By fify — On Apr 25, 2012

@ddljohn, @burcidi--I personally think that both the custom-made guards and the boil and bite guards are effective. But there are many varieties of them, made with different materials and different prices. I agree that it might require some reading and discussing with your dentist to figure out what's best for you. Everyone's jaw and teeth structure is different so what works for one person might not work for another.

I know that custom dental night guards can get a little expensive. There are actually alternative options available online. There are online stores which send you a type of mold that you can bite into and send back. They make a custom guard for you and mail it back. This is a much more affordable option.

There are also more advanced over the counter guards now. They're a little more expensive than the traditional boil and bite guard, but still way more affordable than custom ones. So just check out the options and see what's better for you.

By burcidi — On Apr 24, 2012

@ddljohn-- I'm in the same situation and I was pretty much decided to go get a custom-fitted mouth guard for grinding. But my close friend basically changed my mind about it.

She shelled out a lot of money and purchased one from her dentist. But it wasn't fitted well and she couldn't wear it. Her dentist didn't even offer to make her a new one and she ended up going to another dentist. She paid the money and got a second one and this one was fitted well and she could wear it. However she went through it in a couple of months like you did! And now she's not willing to pay again to have it replaced.

I don't know if everyone has the same experience, but it seems to me that the custom fitted ones are not necessarily better than the ones sold at pharmacies.

You might want to do some research and think twice before you invest in a custom made one. I personally can't waste that money if it turns out that it doesn't work for me. At least the ones at the pharmacy are affordable enough that you won't worry about it if that happens.

By ddljohn — On Apr 24, 2012

I've been grinding my teeth at night for several years. I use a teeth grinding guard from the pharmacy. It's the kind that you boil and shape while it's still warm by putting it into your mouth and biting.

It works pretty well and does prevent teeth chipping which is my main problem. However, I'm not able to use it for a long time at once. I usually use it for a couple of weeks and then have to take a week off.

The reason is because it causes pain in my jaw and mouth and I feel like it's changing the alignment of my teeth while I sleep. I have perfect alignment right now and I don't have jaw pains when I'm not wearing the mouth guard.

I wish I had insurance and money to get a custom made one from the dentist but I don't. Until I do, I'll keep using the over-the-counter mouth guards. I've already gone through two right now. I grind my teeth so bad that I make cut into the mouth guard with my teeth in several months.

Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi, a freelance writer and editor with a passion for the written word, brings a diverse skill set to her...
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