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Read This Before You Buy a Night Guard Online

  • Teeth Grinding
12 min read
by JS Dental Lab |

You deserve a great night’s rest. 

The kind that allows you to spring out of bed and hit the ground running—feeling energized and ready to tackle the day. 

But if you’re among the 10% of American adults who grind their teeth when they sleep (known medically as sleep-related bruxism), this might seem like a dream that’s just out of reach.

Help is closer than you think — in the form of a night guard.

The thought of wearing a night guard might be a little intimidating, but we’re here to help put your mind at rest. We’ve put together a helpful guide to answer all your questions — and make choosing the right night guard for you a breeze.

What Exactly Is a Night Guard, Anyway?

We know: the name makes it sound like some sort of sentry who stands watch over you as you slumber. And while that’s not completely true, it’s not entirely false, either. 

A night guard does watch over part of you while you sleep: your teeth!

A night guard is a dental device that provides a protective barrier between your upper and lower teeth. Many dentists recommend or prescribe dental night guards to help reduce the negative effects of bruxism.

What effects, you ask? 

Since both grinding teeth and teeth clenching are common symptoms of bruxism, you can expect some tell-tale signs when you're awake.

These common bruxism side effects include:

  • Teeth wear
  • Teeth cracking, chip, flattened
  • Teeth sensitivity  
  • Jaw, neck, shoulder, and back pain
  • Gum recession

Note: JS Dental is a provider of night guards, specially fitted dental appliances worn overnight to prevent or reduce teeth grinding. Mouth guards usually refer to sporting mouth guards, but they are often used interchangeably. In this article, when we say mouth guard, we are really referring to the night guard for teeth grinding and clenching

Alright, So How Do I Know if I Need a Night Guard?

You might not know you need a night guard — at first. It can be hard to tell you’re grinding your teeth while you sleep because, well … you’re sleeping! 

Most often, your partner will be the one to clue you in — especially if your nightly teeth-gnashing is loud enough to shake them from sleep.

If you’re keeping up with your semi-annual appointments, your dentist may be the first to spot your grinding after having a quick look at your teeth. They’ll see teeth that are flattened and enamel that’s worn—maybe even some chips or fractures.

Of course, even before someone else confirms it, you’ll probably know something’s going on. 

If you wake up and your teeth feel weird, you have a sore jaw, are prone to headaches or migraines, or you’re suddenly more sensitive to hot foods and cold drinks, you might be grinding your teeth.

However you find out about your grinding, don’t ignore it! The longer it continues unabated, the worse its effects can be.

Related: Night Guard Info: Three Long-Term Side Effects of Teeth Grinding

Okay, I Think I Need a Night Guard: What Are My Options?

Woman wondering about options for a night guard

You’ve taken the first step toward a better night’s sleep and are ready to explore your options. A night guard is a great way to keep your teeth safe and reduce your pain and discomfort as you work to overcome the root cause.

There are two crucial factors to consider when picking out your new night guard: comfort and effectiveness. Cost will certainly be a deciding factor as well. But as you’ll see, the best mouth guard doesn’t have to break the bank. 

With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the options available to you.

Sports Guards

The name says it all. 

These guards are for one activity: sports.

If you try to use a sports guard as a night guard, you’ll most likely find that their thick, extremely hard material — which is ideal for providing maximum protection for your teeth during sports activities — makes it difficult to breathe normally.

Sports guards tend to be fairly cheap (usually no more than $20). Some are boil-and-bite, meaning you can soften them in boiling water and gently bite into them to mold them to your teeth, but the majority are one-size-fits-all. This design makes sports guards bulky and uncomfortable — especially when you’re trying to relax and rest.

Over-the-Counter Mouth Guards

You can find these guards at most drug stores, usually for no more than $30 a pop. Over-the-counter guards typically comprise thinner materials than sports guards, helping to reduce bulkiness and increase comfort. 

Since most models are boil-and-bite, you’ll get better fitting protection than you would with a sports guard.

One thing to be cautious of with over-the-counter guards is their lifespan. Since they’re made using pliable plastics (which allows for the boil-and-bite), they usually don’t hold up for very long. 

While $30 might seem like a great price, having to replace your guard every few months because of wear and tear can become costly.

We actually bought all the boil and bite guards in the market and created this video to tell you all about what we learned:

Professional Guards From Your Dentist

Welcome to the Lamborghini of night guards — at a price point to match (contextually speaking, of course). 

To make your guard, your dentist will start by taking an impression of your teeth. Then, they’ll send your molds to a lab for a guard that is custom-made for you.

They specially tailor these guards to an ideal thickness, depending on your specific type of grinding. If you have TMJ alignment issues, your dentist may send you to a TMJ specialist or recommend your wear TMJ splints

TMJ refers to your temporomandibular joint, the medical term for the mechanism that connects your mandible to your skull. 

Teeth grinders can experience oral care issues like jaw soreness due to TMJ misalignment that comes from clenching and grinding.

What are Professional Night Guards Made of?

Professional guards comprise materials that are quite a step up from those used for sports guards and over-the-counter models. 

Most often, your dentist will use a thermoplastic material like acrylic, or dual-laminates made of both PETG and TPU. These materials are extremely durable, allowing your guard to remain in top shape for as long as 10 years.

How Much Do They Cost?

You might be thinking that this type of grind guard sounds perfect. But bear in mind that getting a guard from your dentist can be a little — or a lot — pricey. Depending on your dentist, your guard may cost anywhere from $300 to $1,500. 

This is due to several reasons. Ordering a night guard online through a private lab saves you money since overhead costs don’t factor in like they do at the dentist office. You also won’t be paying for the time that comes with in-person chair time.

It’s always a good idea to check your dental insurance plan if you have one to see if it covers night guards. While some plans do, the majority of them do not — resulting in a hefty out-of-pocket cost.

Professional Guards From a Private Lab 

Ordering from a private lab gives you all the benefits of a dentist-made custom-fit night guard without the eye-watering price tag. 

Private Lab Materials

Like labs your dentist will use, private labs use materials like PETG, TPU, and EVA to construct a guard that is custom-fitted for quality and comfort. 

Private Lab Process

The only real drawback of ordering from a private lab is that you take the place of your dentist when it comes to making molds of your teeth. Luckily, this can be easy to do. 

You also won’t have an in-person consultation with a dentist to discuss your needs, which you may be fine with if dental visits aren’t your favorite thing to begin with!

The lab will send you an impression kit to make the molds and provide you with instructions. Once you make your molds, send them back to the lab and they’ll craft your guard — which they’ll conveniently mail to you.

The entire process usually takes about two weeks, all at an affordable price. 

Okay, So What Does it Cost? 

JS Dental Lab offers custom-fit night guards for $105 and $195 — depending on your grinding and the type of guard that will best protect your teeth.

Check out: 7 Things to Add to Your Bedtime Checklist

Should I Be Worried About Wearing a Night Guard?

Not. At. All. 

Adjusting to wearing a nighttime teeth guard can certainly pose some challenges, just like adjusting to any other type of orthodontic, like a retainer or Invisalign. 

But it will become second nature before you know it.

Sleeping with a night guard in your mouth does take some time to get used to. The type of night guard you choose will have a big impact on how long this adjustment period lasts.

If you opt for an over-the-counter guard, you’ll probably be dealing with a chewy-soft and ineffective night guard that feels bulky and uncomfortable in your mouth. The size of over-the-counter guards can also make breathing difficult and may cause drooling or even gagging if it blocks your airway.

Professionally-made custom night guards can present their own challenges, too. Traditionally, hard acrylic guards are thick and rigid, with a tightness that is difficult to bear. Because of this type of material and fit, the comfort level of the wearer overrides necessity, so the compliance rate is lower. 

With the use of new thermoplastic materials, such as PETG, plus your choice of more hard or soft materials, the wear is less rigid and will adapt to your teeth better than the traditional hard acrylic material. 

With night guards that have a soft inner layer, there is far less tightness during the first few days. These soft materials can adapt to the teeth's contours and have more give, meaning you’ll feel more comfortable and will be more likely to wear your night guard.

You’re not used to having something fit snugly over your front teeth while you sleep. It will feel strange for a little while, but you’ll get used to it before you know it. Ahead, we’ll share how to adjust to your night guard fast and easy.

night guard quiz

How to Adjust to Your New Night Guard

With any night guard, give yourself — and your mouth — the chance to adjust. If you’re feeling uncomfortable after the first week of consistent nightly use, it may be time to request an adjustment.

While it might not take nearly that long, you still need to give yourself time to get used to wearing a guard every night. Don’t get disheartened if it doesn’t feel perfect right away.

Still having trouble wearing your night guard while you sleep after the first few nights? A good trick to try is putting your night guard in a little while before you’re ready to lay down for the night. Even 15 or 20 minutes can help. As you’re going through your evening routine — washing dishes, tucking in the kids, packing lunch for the next day — pop in your guard. 

Having a little extra time with it in your mouth each day will help you get used to it faster. That way, when you get into bed, you’re not thinking about the guard being in your mouth. You’re already used to it being there! Though this is a helpful tip, it won’t apply to most night guard wearers and is only applicable to a small percentage of users.

Make sure you’re keeping track of how your night guard feels. And remember, if it’s still uncomfortably tight after a few days — or is increasing your tooth or jaw pain — you may need to have it adjusted. 

You may need adjustments if the teeth impressions to make your guard are low-quality. Getting new, first-rate impressions of your upper teeth and/or your lower teeth is crucial to ensuring your guard doesn’t cause you discomfort.

We answer the question: Can You Use Essential Oils for Teeth Grinding? here

How Do I Care for My New Night Guard?

You certainly don’t want to spend money on a night guard only to have it break down and become useless in a matter of months. 

There’s a greater risk of this with over-the-counter night guards because their material isn’t as durable as the thermoplastics that professionals use.

Lower-grade plastics simply can’t stand up to severe teeth grinding. It will cost more to replace a night guard that quickly wears out. Plus, you run the risk of experiencing more discomfort and pain by using a night guard that isn’t strong and durable enough to work correctly.

Caring for Your Night Guard: Steps to Follow

Even though they’re more durable, professional night guards are still subject to some wear and tear. 

Whether you opt for an over-the-counter guard or one that’s made by professionals, you want to do everything you can to take care of it — ensuring it keeps your teeth safe for as long as possible.

Follow these seven simple steps to care for your night guard and extend its life span:

Step One: Clean Your Guard

The first step to maintaining your guard’s strength and functionality is keeping it clean

As you sleep, all the microbes living in your mouth are settling onto your guard. This can cause problems because those microbes — along with food particles, plaque, and other debris — can degrade the guard’s material, slowly but surely weakening it.

Step Two: Rinse

As soon as you’re out of bed in the morning, rinse your guard with room temperature water. This helps loosen all the things that stuck to it overnight. Never use hot water, as it can cause your guard to become distorted and ineffective. 

As you rinse it, give your guard a good inspection, keeping an eye out for any cracks or breaks. 

If you discover any, stop using your night guard and get a replacement — either by heading to your drug store to pick one up or reaching out to your dentist or private lab.

As a side note, when you purchase a night guard from JS Dental Lab, your guard is protected by our 12-month replacement policy.

Step Three: Brush Your Guard

When you’re done rinsing, give your guard a good brush. 

A normal toothbrush works just fine for this, but don't use toothpaste. Toothpaste can be abrasive and might scratch your guard, causing it to wear out far sooner than it should. 

Just be sure that when you’re scrubbing, you hit every part of the guard — getting all the microbes and debris out of every nook and cranny.

Step Four: Dry

Once you’ve given it a thorough scrub, set your guard on a clean, flat surface to dry. It’s important to let it dry completely, which usually takes no more than 30 minutes. 

If you put a still-damp guard into a sealed storage case, you run the risk of promoting rapid bacterial growth. 

Just like the microbes that are in your mouth, this bacteria can shorten the lifespan of your guard—and potentially cause gum recession if you’re putting a bacteria-coated guard into your mouth every night.

Step Five: Weekly Deep Cleaning

You should also get in the habit of giving your guard a thorough deep clean once a week. There are a few ways you can go about this.

One involves a mixture of distilled vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. Start by soaking your guard in the vinegar for half an hour. Then, soak it in the hydrogen peroxide for another 30 minutes, rinsing and setting it aside to dry when time’s up.

Or you can use mouthwash and water. You never want to use pure mouthwash, but a capful diluted with water will work like a charm. Simply place your guard in a glass or bowl, add your cap of mouthwash, and fill it the rest of the way with water. Again, after about half an hour, rinse your guard and let it dry.

No matter how you choose to deep clean your guard, you never want to let it soak for more than one hour. Keeping your guard submerged in liquid for too long can cause it to wear out faster, so set a timer if you think you might forget.

Step Six: Storage

When you’re not wearing your night guard, always keep it in a case. This helps prevent prolonged exposure to the dust and dirt that’s always floating around in the air — which you probably don’t want in your mouth! . 

Store your guard in your bedroom or bathroom. In fact, keeping it right on your nightstand can be a great reminder as you start developing your new night guard habit. 

As long as your guard is in a ventilated case that prevents bacterial growth, it’ll be clean and ready for you each night. 

Step 7: Clean the Case

It’s also important to keep your guard’s case clean. You’ve put a lot of time into keeping your guard spic and span, so you certainly don’t want to store it in a dirty case. 

Give your case a good hand-washing (regular dish detergent will work just fine) every few days. 

Avoid cleaning your case in the dishwasher, as high temperatures can cause your case to warp and melt. And as you did with the guard itself, let the case dry completely to prevent bacterial growth.

Conclusion

If you’re considering a night guard, we hope this guide has answered some of the questions you undoubtedly have. 

And if you have more, we’re here to help! At JS Dental Lab, we’re committed to helping you find relief with our custom-made night guards. To find out more, get in touch with us today.

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