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What to Do if Your Teeth Hurt After Wearing a Night Guard

8 min read
by JS Dental Lab |

Humans are creatures of habit. 

We have our preferred seats in the living room and kitchen, like the foods we like, and would rather not try new things too often. 

And we don’t like to put appliances in our mouths when we’re sleeping.

But you might need one because your doctor or dentist recommended an oral appliance or because you think it’s the next step in your healthcare.

Whatever the reason, if you’ve just started wearing an oral appliance, you’re in the “creating a new habit” zone — which means you’re trying to break your old, comfortable habits.

During this period, your mouth is acclimatizing to your night guard. It’s common for you to notice some side effects, like your teeth feeling weird or hurting after wearing your night guard.

Don’t give up! Research shows it can take as few as 18 days for a new habit to become an ingrained behavior or as long as 254. 

Luckily, you don’t have to wait that long to get rid of the discomfort in your teeth. While you’re building this new habit, try these methods to help your body adjust quicker.

1. Understand the Problem

Sometimes, a little bit of knowledge about how a night guard works can help you figure out why it’s causing pain. 

If you’re feeling some discomfort after using your oral appliance, you’re definitely not alone! There’s a reason entire blogs comment on the subject.

It’s common, but it’s not okay

In other words, it happens frequently, but we don’t want it to. 

Typical Causes of Night Guards and Pain

Let’s try to work through the common causes of discomfort with a night guard and the easy solutions to fix each one.

You Need to Adjust the Fit

Is your guard fitting snugly but comfortably? 

You will need to ensure you position your dental appliance well. In fact, the discomfort you feel may be due to how you’re placing it in your mouth.

There are different types of night guards, but none of them should require you to force them into place. However, a tight fit is necessary for the appliance to do its job. 

But both hard and soft night guards are designed to slide over your teeth and “pop” into their positions. They shouldn’t slide off or be so tight that you need to use the rest of your mouth to force the fit.

When you slide the appliance into place, it should seem like it’s an extra layer over your teeth. It shouldn’t feel like it’s shifting teeth, and you definitely shouldn’t experience pain when it clicks in place.

It’s perfectly normal for you to feel some soreness for the first few nights after you start wearing a night guard. If this soreness continues or your teeth feel increased pain or sensitivity, it may be a poor fit issue.

The Wrong Design

If your night guard wasn’t custom-made for your mouth by an expert like JS Dental Lab, chances are, it’s not the right fit. It may be close to perfect, but everyone’s mouth is different.

A one-size-fits-most boil in bag or over-the-counter option comes with lots of potential problems with the fit. 

For one thing, the guards are made of squishy soft plastics which stimulates the jaw muscle to chew on it. Think of it like gum. When you put it in your mouth, your jaw’s instinct is going to be to chew it. 

The goal of the guard is to stop the clenching, and this extra unnecessary gnawing will make your existing jaw pains worse.

Not to mention, the bulky fit of these night guards are just plain uncomfortable. 

It’s no wonder your symptoms are worse than they were before you used your guard. But this has a simple solution: Get rid of the old dental night guard and get a custom-fit one instead.

Still, you don’t want to jump straight to the worst-case scenario. 

These tips will help you understand when to be concerned versus when to push through to create a new habit.

Related: The Skinny on Adjustments

2. Wear Your Guard During the Day, Too

The more frequently you wear your night guard, the faster your body gets accustomed to it. 

Obviously, you don’t want to keep it on all the time. But if you’re able to find ways to insert it into your daily routine at reasonable times, it can be helpful without being a distraction.

Depending on your day, try keeping your night guard (in its clean case) nearby and popping it in while you:

  • Are taking a quick shower (be sure to clean and dry it well after)
  • Lay down for a nap or to read a book
  • Are studying or working in front of your computer
  • Have some windshield time in your car between errands

These short periods of 15-30 minutes when you don’t have to talk to anyone are opportune times to adjust to your night guard. 

Building the connection from your mouth to your brain helps increase the familiarity of the appliance, letting you sleep more comfortably at night.

Pro tip: Use this method to adjust to wearing your retainer and other dental appliances, too!

3. See Your Doctor

A dentist examining a dental patient

If you’ve been trying for weeks and you can’t get used to your night guard, the pain could be stemming from something else.

This is especially necessary for people using a night guard without a doctor’s recommendation. 

It’s easy to grab over-the-counter night guards or order them off Amazon if you Googled your symptoms, and a dental guard was a possible fix.

But if the problem is still there or getting worse, there may be a more serious medical reason causing it.

Potential Causes of Painful Teeth

Possibly the most common reason people wear night guards is that they have sleep bruxism. Sleep bruxism is when you grind and clench your teeth when you’re asleep.

The condition has some specific tells, like sensitive teeth, neck and jaw muscle pain, and morning headaches. 

So, many teeth grinders self-diagnose instead of heading to the doctor, and they get a night guard to see if it helps.

In reality, these symptoms also go along with other medical problems, such as:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea, a sleeping disorder found in children and adults that causes the airway to partially collapse
  • TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, disorder, where the hinge that connects your jawbone and your skull is in misalignment
  • Cavities in a tooth, a chipped tooth, or a tooth that has become infected
  • Sinusitis that causes inflammation and swelling in the sinus cavity, which can cause facial pain
  • An impacted tooth that can’t break through because of lack of space (usually in the lower jaw)

All of these conditions will need the help of someone in the field of dentistry or medicine. A dental guard can reduce the symptoms, but you’ll still need to fix the underlying cause.

4. Actively Create Healthy Routines

Do you forget to wear your night guard frequently? Do you spit it out in the middle of the night? 

These small “oopsies” keep your body from forming the long-term habits you need to be comfortable with your guard. 

Changing your routines can help you remember to wear it and keep it in all night.

Tips for Better Habits

How successful a new behavior pattern is for you depends on your willpower and routines. You won’t always be determined and motivated, so you need to have a plan to structure your actions. 

These tips can help you establish strong patterns to keep you on track for your night guard goals:

Set a Plan

What’s your usual bedtime routine? What triggers you to forget to wear your night guard? 

Write down these triggers and suggestions on how to avoid or overcome them.

Change Your Environment

Is your nightstand or bathroom counter full of clutter? 

Clear off the surface so that your night guard is front and center, screaming for your attention. That way, it will be harder to overlook!

Ask for Help

When you’re trying to make a new habit, it’s okay to get a little help along the way. 

Tell Siri or Alexa to set a reminder every evening at bedtime to “Wear your night guard.” Ask a friend to text you and make sure you put it on or get your partner or older child to double-check you.

Record Your Progress and Set Rewards

First, keep a calendar next to your bed. Then, write an “X” on the day when you start to pop your night guard in each night. Set a goal for how many nights you want to wear it, and reward yourself when you meet that goal.

Track, Track, Track

Rate your jaw pain and other symptoms each day on the same calendar. Does your temporomandibular joint hurt less when you wear your custom night guard all night?

If you notice that your teeth grinding and overall dental health improves, it's an excellent incentive to keep the habit going. 

And perhaps most importantly, remember to be patient with yourself. You are human, and, after all, humans are creatures of habit. 

Yes, it can take 18 days to get used to something new, but it can also take up to 254! As long as you’re in the middle there somewhere, you’re doing just fine.

Discover: Our Best Tips for Sleeping With a Mouth Guard

5. Switch to a Custom-Made Guard

Close-up of a man smiling with teeth

If you started wearing an over-the-counter or boil-in-bag night guard, the pain you’re feeling could be because of an improper fit. 

You’ve narrowed it down, and there’s no medical reason for your tooth pain. So, it’s time to trade in that one-size-fits-most guard for one designed only for you.

Why Custom Guards Are Better

You might be okay with wearing a shirt or pants with a general sizing system. But when it comes to your oral health and dental appliances, small, medium, and large, don’t cut it.

Labs create custom-made night guards using an impression of your mouth, focusing on your teeth. They account for every little nook, cranny, and crooked incisor. 

And the thickness of the material is designed with your comfort and grinding level in mind.

Even hard night guards are comfortable, made from a thermoplastic material that can be molded and shaped. Because they’re so durable, they can last you for years.

The only problem with these custom night guards is that it gets expensive to have yours made by the dentist. 

The solution? JS Dental Lab, a private lab that sends you everything you need through the mail.

Why Use JS Dental Lab?

When you go through JS Dental Lab, you get the advantages of having your own expert to walk you through the process. 

We can advise you on the best night guard for your problem and then mail you the impression materials. 

You’ll send the impressions back through the mail, and your custom-made guard will be crafted and sent to you. 

The whole process of ordering your guard only takes a couple of weeks and is much cheaper than using a dentist. It allows you to say “goodbye!” to ill-fitting night guards forever.

Skip the hefty dental cost by going to JS Dental Lab. Your teeth will thank you!

You may also like: 5 Dental Night Guard Side Effects [+ Solutions]

Conclusion

Wearing a dental guard in your mouth while you’re sleeping is bound to come with a few issues. 

Experiencing soreness with the night guard is typical at first, but it’s not something you want to have to deal with for long.

With these tips, you can discover the reason for your discomfort and decide whether to push through and make this a new habit or find another solution.  

JS Dental Lab has the custom guard and the expert advice you need to take your oral health to the next level.

To find out more information about night guards, be sure to check out our other articles or contact us today to learn more

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