If you suffer from bruxism, or teeth grinding, you might need a custom night guard for teeth. When you clench or grind your teeth at night, there are various negative side effects, like enamel erosion and headaches.
A night guard typically fits over your upper teeth and serves as a barrier between your upper and lower arches. Thus, if you do grind your teeth, they will be grinding against a much softer plastic than the hard enamel that covers the surface of your teeth.
When it comes to night guards you also have options — there are one-size-fits-all night guards, night guards that you can adjust to fit your bite, night guards that you can order custom-made for you, and night guards that you get directly from the dentist.
In this article we'll discuss custom night guards, including:
- The benefits of custom night guards
- Where to get them made
- How much custom night guards cost
- Night guards from the dentist vs over-the-counter night guards
We hope this information helps you make the best decision for your oral health.
Table of contents
What is a night guard?
To put it briefly, a night guard is a removable plastic tray that fits over your teeth, usually your top teeth, to protect both your upper and bottom teeth from grinding and clenching while you sleep.
Who needs a night guard?
If you clench or grind your teeth while you sleep, then you should definitely talk to your dentist about the benefits of a night guard. Tooth grinding can be a serious problem, and it can have any number of unfortunate results. Some of these include:
- Damage to your teeth: Tooth grinding results in the loss of tooth enamel. The enamel is what protects your teeth from the elements. Without it, your teeth may become overly sensitive and will be at greater risk of decay. For kids, mouth guards can be used during contact sports to prevent trauma.
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder: This joint connects the jaw and the skull, and when you clench your teeth, you can cause jaw misalignment. This can make you more prone to developing TMJ disorder, which causes pain, difficulty chewing, and damage to your articular disc.
- Chronic headaches: Frequent and lasting headaches are a major symptom of bruxism. When you grind your teeth, the muscles in your neck, mouth, and shoulders are constantly tensed, and this causes headaches.
- Partner distress: In other words, the person you sleep with might suffer from your bruxism as well. The noise of grinding teeth is very unpleasant and can lead to hours of lost sleep.
Types of night guard
When it comes to types of night guards, you have various options:
- One-size-fits-all: This type of nightguard is the least ideal. While they are easy to find and quite cheap, they also aren't made to fit your teeth. An incorrect fit could lead to all sorts of problems, including further disruption of your sleep, shifting of your teeth, and pain. However, for a very small percentage of the population, a one-size-fits-all option just might do the trick.
- Boil-and-bite: These are purchased over-the-counter and require you to boil them in water and then bite down on them. Once the guard has cooled, the plastic molds around your teeth for a better fit than a one-size-fits-all option.
- Adjustable: Adjustable night guards can be adjusted as needed — you just put them in warm (not boiling) water and bite down on them so they fit your bite. If you still need to adjust them once they've cooled, you still can! Just stick them in warm water again.
- Custom-made night guards: Also referred to as professional night guards, custom dental night guards can come from two sources: a dentist or a mail-order company. If you go to the dentist, your dentist will make molds of your mouth that they will use to make your guards. NTI night guards are one such brand. If you order them online, you make the molds of your mouth at home and then send them into the lab for your custom bite guards to be created. You then receive your custom dental mouth guards in the mail.
Over-the-counter night guard vs dentist night guards
Now let's have a look at the differences between over-the-counter night guards and custom or professional dental guards.
Over-the-counter night guard
OTC guards typically come in three types that we mentioned above: one-size-fits-all, boil-and-bite, and adjustable.
The one-size-fits-all night guards are intended to fit any mouth, directly out of the box, without any adjustments. These tend to be a gamble because they often don't fit well, if at all. If they do fit, it's unlikely to be as comfortable as a custom guard would be.
Then there's the boil-and-bite and adjustable guards. These work by using hot water to mold the bite guard to your teeth. Once you've soaked them in boiling (boil-and-bite) or warm (adjustable) water, you bite down on them and they make an impression of your teeth.
These will generally fit better than the one-size-fits-all option but they aren't as secure as mouth guards that are professionally tailored to you in a dental lab.
There are benefits to this type of night guard, namely cost and convenience. You can go to any drug store or online retailer to get one and they can cost as little as $10. If you do opt for an OTC guard, consider a brand with a good reputation, like Dentek night guards.
Given the price and convenience, if you have a severe case of bruxism, you may want to consider purchasing these to use temporarily while your custom guards are being made.
Custom/dentist night guard
Custom night guards are made in a professional dental lab to fit your teeth specifically. There are two ways to get custom night guards.
Dentist night guard
If you choose this option, there will most likely be a series of in-office appointments:
- First, you will have a consultation with your dentist to figure out if this is a good option for you.
- Next, your dentist will make molds of your teeth, similarly to how they would for braces. This may require a separate visit, or it might be done at the same consultation; it depends on your dentist.
- Your dentist will send your molds to a dental lab where your guards will be made.
- Finally, you'll visit your dentist again for a fitting and then take your guards home with you.
If your bruxism is particularly severe, you have an extreme case of malocclusion, or you need a night guard to wear with braces, then you should probably get your guard from the dentist.
Mail-order night guard
The process for getting mail-order custom dental night guards requires no office visits and typically goes as follows:
- Order your impression kit: Order a kit to make molds of your teeth at home from a trusted mouth guard website. You'll get your kit in the mail and then make your dental impressions at home. This process comes with instructions and usually takes less than 15 minutes.
- The lab makes your guard: The same dental lab that dentists use will use your night guards to craft your impressions. This process usually takes 3–5 days.
- Get your guards: You'll receive your custom mouth guards in the mail and start wearing them that very night.
Both dentist and mail-order companies will keep the records of your teeth on file, so that when you need to order new mouth guards (they tend to wear down after all that grinding) you don't have to make new impressions (unless your teeth have shifted).
One company offering quality, affordable, custom-made dental night guards is Smile Brilliant. They offer three different packages to choose from and lifetime reorders.
Another company that offers custom-made night guards and mouth guards is Sporting Smiles. They work in much the same way as Smile Brilliant — you make impressions of your teeth and then send them into the dental lab to be made.
Sporting Smiles mouthguards are made in and shipped from Wisconsin, with free 3-way shipping. They offer a wide variety of mouth guard strengths and cuts so you can choose the best one for your needs. Their options include:
- Flexible super hard
- Flexible hard back cut
- Dual laminate guard
- Dual laminate back cut
- Soft grinding guard
- Hard grinding guard
You can order your mouthguard impression kit now, and Sporting Smiles will keep your records on file so in the future you can order replacement guards directly.
Custom night guard cost
The average cost of custom night guards from your dentist is between $200–$600. The average cost of mail-order custom night guards typically ranges from $100–$200. The difference in the costs is due to the service fees your dentist needs to charge for their time in the office.
In many cases, patients can save money without sacrificing quality by getting mail-order custom dental night guards. However, if you have a particularly severe case of bruxism, your best option may be to visit your dentist in-person.
Custom night guards are made to fit your mouth and can provide great relief to those suffering from bruxism. These are typically much more successful than over-the-counter, one-size-fits-all night guards, which can be uncomfortable and even make problems worse.
There are two ways to get custom night guards: from your dentist, or from a mail-order company. Both are good options — some people prefer going to the dentist to get their guards while others prefer the convenience and affordability of mail-order guards.
The bottom line is that teeth grinding is a problem that shouldn't be left unresolved, and getting a custom night guard is one of the easiest and effective solutions.
If you do want to order a custom night guard online, you can do so with Smile Brilliant. Their process is convenient and easy, and they produce quality, custom-fitting guards made in the same dental labs that dentists use.