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5 Dental Night Guard Side Effects [+ Solutions]

8 min read
by JS Dental Lab |

If you’re a chronic teeth grinder, you probably deal with things like headaches and jaw pain frequently. You may not even know you grind your teeth, though it can happen while you sleep or while you’re awake.

On their own, teeth grinding symptoms don’t always point to dental issues. But by the time you’ve narrowed it down to grinding, you want the problem fixed fast.

Your dentist may have diagnosed you with a condition called bruxism. It’s a condition where you clench your jaw and grind your teeth. You might do it during the day when you’re stressed or at night when you’re sleeping. 

Most people with this condition don’t recognize they’re doing it until it’s pointed out to them. 

We’re going to discuss bruxism further before delving into dental night guard side effects and solutions.

How Do I Know I Have Bruxism?

Medical providers or dentists diagnose people who grind and clench their teeth and jaw as having bruxism

If you’re a grinder, you move your jaw back and forth unconsciously. Clenching is the act of biting down hard and keeping your jaw and teeth in that position for extended periods.

Doing this occasionally doesn’t mean you have bruxism. But if you are chronically teeth clenching or grinding when you’re stressed or sleeping, the effects will be felt and, eventually, visible.

Bruxism can result in severe tooth damage, leading to structural problems, decay, and sensitivity. 

Most people first notice a problem when their TMJ (temporomandibular joint) begins to pop or hurt. This condition is temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), yet people commonly refer to it as TMJ.

Factors That May Lead to Bruxism

Anyone can develop bruxism, even kids. In fact, this condition is most common in young children.

Other factors that are often associated with teeth grinding and clenching include:

  • Extreme emotions like stress, anger, and frustration
  • Aggressive, hyper, or competitive personality types
  • Medical conditions, including sleep apnea, Parkinson’s Disease, and epilepsy
  • Use of certain medications or substances, such as overusing caffeine or alcohol, using tobacco, and some medicines for psychiatric treatments

Any, all, or none of these factors could be contributing to your bruxism. It helps to know why you’re grinding your teeth, but if you can’t figure it out, you still need the problem to go away.

Reducing the Symptoms of Bruxism

One of the most common treatment options to reduce the symptoms of bruxism is a night guard. It’s a tray-like dental appliance that slides over your teeth to protect them from your grinding actions.

Also called an occlusal splint or guard, or a bite splint, it is, in essence, a form of protection for your teeth. But although there are lots of benefits of wearing a night guard regularly, it can take some getting used to. 

This guide takes you through the potential side effects of your new dental night guard and how to deal with each of them.

night guard quiz

Problem: Teeth and Jaw Discomfort

Misalignment of your teeth and jaw due to TMJ can cause pain and discomfort.

As you work with your dentist to fix these parts back into their proper placement, the night guard protects your tooth enamel. Consistent use resets your mouth’s natural spacing because your upper and lower teeth no longer touch with the material between them. 

Dentists also recommend night guards to reduce the pain from TMJ and morning headaches. But the ultimate goal of the night guard is to prevent your grinding and clenching from causing further damage to your teeth.

However, adjusting to any new oral appliance can be uncomfortable initially, even with a custom night guard. Over time, you will adjust to wearing your dental protector. 

As your dental treatment realigns your jaw and teeth, the night guard may no longer fit your newly-shifted mouth spacing. 

Teeth and Jaw Discomfort Solution

If the discomfort becomes too much, check with your dentist to see if you need your night guard refitted. They will examine your bite and your night guard to see if the discomfort is temporary or if you need a new guard. 

Soft Tissue Soreness

A person touching their jaw lightly as if in pain

Let’s face it: dental experts best perform the field of dentistry. Yet, there are lots of OTC manufacturers that offer easy fixes so you can avoid the expense of an office visit.

The problem with cutting corners like this is that what you’re getting isn’t tailored to your oral health needs. It’s a one-size-fits-most alternative that usually comes with side effects, especially when it’s a medical or dental “fix.”

If you opted for over-the-counter night guards, you’re probably noticing some soft tissue soreness. 

When your dentist or an actual oral appliance provider doesn’t fit your orthodontic appliance to you, it can press into the sensitive areas in your mouth. This may cause pain, pressure, and swollen or bleeding gums.

In a way, it’s a side effect of using the night guard. But it’s not the fault of the appliance itself. It’s the result of not using custom-built night guards.

Sore Tissue Solution

Giving up on a night guard isn’t the answer to this problem. 

Instead, if you still want to avoid a trip to the orthodontist, skip the over-the-counter mouth guard route. Get a custom-fit night guard through professional companies like JS Dental Lab.

Shifting Teeth

Certain night guards can cause some movement in your mouth as they shift it into its proper alignment. But a correctly fitted night guard shouldn’t move your teeth as braces would.

If your teeth do move, it can make the symptoms of your TMJ worse. Remember, your night guard can protect your teeth from the side effects of bruxism. To realign them, it’s essential to work with an orthodontist. 

When your teeth shift due to wearing a dental protector, it can cause pain in your jaw muscles. Instead of reducing facial pain, migraines, and other problems, shifting teeth can increase these issues.

Custom-made night guards should have a comfortable fit over your upper and lower teeth just as they are. Your clenching and grinding can’t cause tooth damage because of the acrylic or other appliance material. 

Shifting Teeth Solution

Check with your dentist or night guard provider to see if your current dental protector needs to be adjusted.

Misaligned Jaw

Certain oral appliances adjust your jaw back into its proper placement. Night guards can work with these appliances to protect your teeth when you’re sleeping. 

But occasionally, a misalignment can happen. When it does, your dental provider can help you determine which appliance is causing the problem.

For example, if your night guard is causing the posterior (back) teeth to touch the plastic, and the anterior (front) teeth don’t touch it, it’s an uneven fit. This may even lead to an increase in the symptoms.

Misaligned Jaw Solution

If your dental protector is causing an alignment dysfunction, you can switch to a softer or harder night guard. 

Again, custom-fit night guards do not contribute to upper or lower jaw misalignment like store-bought versions. If you have a misaligned jaw and want to use a night guard to protect your teeth, be sure to have yourself fit for a custom-made night guard instead. 

Infections, Bacteria, and Bad Breath

Whenever you put something in your mouth, it’s a good idea to make sure it’s clean.

Yet, many people don’t sanitize their night guards before they wear them each evening. This lack of regular hygiene practices often results in infections, bacterial growth, and bad breath. 

Additionally, when you don’t take care of your night guard, it can break down within months. 

This is especially true with over-the-counter dental protectors. Because they frequently comprise subpar materials compared to professional thermoplastics, you have to replace them more often. 

Luckily, there’s an easy fix for this night guard problem that will keep your appliance in good shape and help it last longer.

Poor Hygiene Solutions 

Cleaning your night guard solves the lousy breath issue and prevents infections from occurring. It also helps prevent the breakdown of the appliance’s material.

How to Care for Your Night Guard

how to care for your mouthguard

To clean your guard, rinse it with warm water in the morning when you wake up. This step removes the microbes, plaque, and food particles from the appliance and prevents the debris from degrading the material. 

Note: Don’t use hot water since it can distort the night guard.

After you rinse your appliance, use a toothbrush to scrub away any remaining microbes. Skip the toothpaste because it can be abrasive and scratch your night guard, wearing it out faster.

To dry the appliance, place it on a clean, flat surface. Let it air dry on its own, a process that typically takes about half an hour. 

Make sure the guard is thoroughly dry before you put it into the storage case. Placing a damp night guard into a sealed container causes bacteria to grow, which you’ll transfer to your mouth. 

The more bacteria that grow, the more likely you’ll have dental health issues like receding gums.

Perform a Weekly Deep Cleanse

Daily upkeep is essential, but a once-a-week deep clean keeps your night guard in the best shape possible.

Follow these simple steps to do so:

  • Grab bottles of distilled vinegar and hydrogen peroxide and keep them handy. 
  • Place the night guard in a clean glass, then add the vinegar until you thoroughly saturate the guard. 
  • Leave it as-is for 30 minutes, then rinse the glass and night guard with cool water.
  • Put the appliance back in the clean glass. 
  • Now cover the vinegar with peroxide and let it sit for another half hour. 
  • Rinse the guard with cool water and let it dry thoroughly, then seal it in the container again.

There are other methods, but this one is simple and highly effective. Don’t let the night guard soak for more than one hour, though. Soaking it for too long can cause it to degrade faster.

All About the Night Guard Case

How you store your appliance is crucial. Keep it in its case any time you’re not wearing it. The case prevents exposure to debris and humidity. 

The bedroom is the best place for your night guard and its case since the bathroom is typically too humid.

You should also clean the case. Putting a pristine night guard into a dirty case defeats your hard work. 

To clean your case, use regular dish detergent to hand wash it two or three times per week. As with the night guard, use warm water, not hot temperatures. The case can warp or melt in extreme heat. 

Let the container air dry completely before you put your night guard in. That way, there’s less chance that bacteria will grow in the case or on the appliance.


Whether you already have a night guard or are considering one, be prepared for the common side effects to help improve your experience.

An over-the-counter appliance might sound like the cheapest solution, but the increase in tooth sensitivity and other side effects isn’t worth the risk. 

Instead, you can skip the expensive dentist visits and get a custom-fit night guard from JS Dental Lab

Our appliances are easy to order through the mail and are tailor-made for you. The material is high-quality and durable, and professional dental associates are always available to answer your questions.

Reduce the side effects of your current night guard or avoid them entirely by using JS Dental Lab as your dental protector provider.

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