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How Do I Know if My Night Guard Fits Properly?

7 min read
by Dylan Hao |

Night guards are the universal solution for bruxers. If you’ve had this condition for a while, you know that bruxism damages your teeth and gums. But wearing a night guard consistently can protect those sensitive areas from the harm caused by clenching and grinding.

Still, not all night guards are the same. Finding one that works for you is vital to ensure your teeth are protected and you’re not doing more harm than good.

How do you know if your night guard is doing its job and fits right? We’ll answer those questions and more here.

The Importance of a Well-Fitting Night Guard

When you realize you need a night guard, it’s tempting to head to the local department store or add one to your Amazon cart and be done with it. However, there are many types of mouthguards, and if you’re not careful with your shopping selection, you could end up wasting your money or making your problem worse.

There’s a significant difference between the types of these oral appliances. Unless you’re playing a contact sport, you don’t need a mouthguard, and retainers are used to prevent your teeth from reshifting after braces.

A night guard, also called an occlusal guard, is similar to a retainer in fit, sliding over the top or bottom teeth, but that’s about where the similarities end. 

Instead of a wire that sits over the front surface of your smile — like the retainer designed by your orthodontist — a night guard cups each tooth, protecting it from the damage caused by grinding. Each indentation should be carefully and comfortably covered, from your molars to your incisors.

Why Your Teeth Don’t Create a One-Size-Fits-All Smile

Speaking of grinding, think about your teeth. Chances are, they’re not perfectly aligned unless you have had recent orthodontic work. 

Your smile doesn’t look like anyone else’s, and that’s normal! We all have gaps and angles and a crooked tooth here and there. So, it makes sense that you’d need a night guard designed for your perfect imperfections to protect your teeth thoroughly.

You're not getting that carefully crafted protection when you buy an over-the-counter boil-and-bite or stock mouthguard. Sure, going this route is cheaper, but you risk the side effects of wearing a night guard that isn’t designed for your unique mouth shape.

On the other hand, a custom-made night guard designed by a professional (like those available at JS Dental Lab) fits your teeth and mouth perfectly. 

This makes wearing them more comfortable and less likely to produce side effects. Although they cost more, they tend to last longer than store-bought appliances.

Benefits of a Custom-Made Night Guard

It’s not just about comfort and longevity, though. There are serious concerns that come with ensuring your night guard is the right fit.

For one thing, your teeth have a particular way they are intended to sit naturally. When you close your mouth, even with a night guard, they should sit in this natural posture, with your upper teeth slightly overlapping your lower teeth. There should also be symmetry in your jaw lines, with your top and bottom incisors meeting directly in a line.

Proper mouth alignment is crucial to prevent malocclusions or “bad bites.” It might not sound like a big deal, but it is. Without treatment, malocclusions can lead to:

  • Decayed and lost teeth
  • Gum disease
  • Improper chewing
  • Jaw problems like temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders 

If it gets bad enough, malocclusions can impact your mental health, making you self-conscious about your smile. An incorrect night guard can shift your teeth and give you this “bad bite,” but a well-designed oral appliance won’t shift your teeth. 

Instead, it takes the pressure off your TMJ, allowing your jaw muscles to relax — which is vital when you’re a teeth grinder. And because it’s created just for you, it won’t fall out when you’re sleeping.

Note: If you need an occlusal guard due to sleep apnea, you should talk to your doctor before investing in one. 

With these concerns in mind, how can you tell if your night guard, wherever you got it from, is the right fit? Let’s dive into that next.

Signs Your Night Guard Isn’t the Right Fit

woman biting her nails in fear

Certain signs make it obvious that your night guard isn’t right for your needs. For instance, if it’s falling out more than it’s staying in, it isn’t going to help too much. And if it doesn't fit right over the arch of your mouth (too big or too small), you’ll need a different guard.

The other signs of an ill-fitting night guard are more subtle, though. If you’re noticing any of these signs after the first few days, it’s time to reconsider your night guard:

  • Ongoing soreness after the first week: It’s normal to have a slight adjustment period, but if it lasts longer than seven days, something isn’t quite right.
  • Your bite feels different: Any signs that your teeth are shifting and changing your bite should be addressed quickly.
  • Your bruxism symptoms continue: The point of the night guard is to stop the damage caused by your grinding, so you should notice improved symptoms if you wear your oral appliance consistently.

If any of these signs are happening to you, stop wearing your night guard until you can talk to your dentist. If the night guard was custom-made, contact the company that designed it and let them know what you’re experiencing.

Tips to Make Sure Your New Night Guard Fits

So you have a new night guard, and you’re ready to take the next step in your oral health journey, but you want to be sure your oral appliance will help — not harm — your teeth-grinding problems. That’s a wise goal, and this section is right where you should be!

Follow these quick and simple tips after you receive a new guard and have cleaned it with hot water (never boiling) so it is ready for use:

  1. Place the guard over the upper or lower teeth (as instructed by the manufacturer).
  2. Wiggle it with your finger to check the fit. It should sit securely over your teeth without sliding off easily.
  3. Check the gumline. The night guard shouldn’t extend over the enamel and into the gums.
  4. Bite down as you usually would, checking how that bite position feels. You shouldn’t notice any pain or discomfort.

When you close your mouth, pay attention to the position of your lips and bite. Your lips should be touching comfortably.

Your bite should feel balanced. The guard isn’t too tight or too loose, and after sleeping with the appliance on, your jaw won’t feel as sore when you wake up.

You’ll know the guard is not fitting right if your lips don’t touch comfortably, the guard feels tight or loose, and you have more jaw pain after wearing it for a few hours than you did before trying to fix your issue.

What to Do If Your Night Guard Isn’t Fitting Properly

You’ve followed the tips, and you aren’t feeling that excitement Goldilocks felt when she curled up in her just-right bed and went to sleep with her custom-fit night guard stopping her grinding. (Well, she could have.)

What should you do next?

The answer depends on the reason for your hesitation. 

For example, if you think the night guard fits right but it’s uncomfortable, that’s completely normal. It will take some time to get used to keeping something in your mouth all night, even if it is the perfect fit.

Rather than waiting until just before bedtime to introduce your night guard to your mouth for long periods, try wearing it throughout the day for 30 minutes or an hour at a time to get used to it.

Other Troubleshooting Tips for a Night Guard That Doesn’t Fit

Sometimes, the guard just doesn’t fit right, even after you’ve given it plenty of chances to adapt to your mouth. Let’s look at some possible fixes.

Adjust the Angle of Placement

Night guard placement is sensitive. It’s not just about sliding the appliance over your teeth. The angle you’re using when you do this matters, too. 

Hard and soft night guards should slide over your teeth, “popping” into place. If you have a custom-made appliance, the “pop” fitting happens when the acrylic matches the mold, which fits your teeth. 

It’s like a puzzle piece. The guard might forcefully slide over your teeth, but when each notch matches the tooth it was created from, it will fit naturally. For that to happen, you might need to adjust the angle you use to place your guard over your teeth.

Change the Type of Guard

Is your guard a custom-made appliance from a professional lab? If not, your OTC night guard may not fit your mouth the way you need it. You gave it a great try, but now it’s time to reach out to the experts. 

Luckily, JS Dental Lab’s mail-order impression kit makes it simple and fast to get an affordable night guard custom-designed for you. Our guards are made of high-quality, professional-grade ingredients for a comfortable yet durable fit.

Talk to Your Doctor

dentist standing in her office with arms crossed

You’ve tried all the tips. Your night guard is professionally designed, and you’ve contacted the manufacturer for their suggestions. Yet, you can’t seem to get that just right feel, and your pain isn’t going away.

When you reach that point, it’s time to contact your dental professional. There might be something deeper going on besides bruxism or sleep apnea. Even the best night guard won’t fix a problem stemming from a more serious complication. 

It’s possible that you have a cavity or another dental health issue that won’t let you ignore it or a medical concern that your doctor should treat. Tell them your symptoms, and inform them that you’ve been wearing a night guard and those problems haven’t improved.


Soft and hard night guards are used for different purposes, but no matter the kind, yours should fit comfortably and improve your symptoms. If it’s not the right fit, you could worsen your dental health issues.

You don’t need to spend the extra money buying a guard via the dentistry route, but OTC oral appliances aren’t the best option if you want a proper fit, either.

Check out our professional, custom-made night guards at JS Dental Lab for top-of-the-line solutions at affordable prices — the Goldilocks just right fit for your night guard needs.

Shop our night guards today!

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