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Dental Night Guard Side Effects and How to Protect Against Them

Amanda Napitu
Amanda Napitu
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Night guards are a great way to help you sleep better and alleviate some of the symptoms that come from grinding your teeth at night. A dental guard creates an oral barrier between upper and lower jaws, protecting against tooth damage or headaches caused by bruxism (teeth grinding). But you may experience some dental night guard side effects.

These are usually minor, but it's important to be aware of them before deciding whether to purchase one of these devices.

In this article, we will look at the possible side effects of wearing a night guard and what to do if you experience any of these problems.

Types of night guard

Before we look at dental night guard side effects, we should distinguish between the different types of night guard. This is because different types can result in different problems for users.

There are three main types of night guard:

  • Standard: A simple one-size-fits-all plastic device worn over the teeth. These tend to be inexpensive, but aren't designed to fit your teeth perfectly.
  • Boil and bite: A one-size-fits-all device that you place in hot water before placing over your teeth, to help it fit better. It's not designed for an exact fit, but is often the most affordable option for people on a limited budget.
  • Custom: A more expensive device that is made from a cast taken of your teeth and gums by a dentist. The custom guard fits your teeth exactly and can also be made in different thicknesses, according to the severity of your bruxism.

Although custom night guards are the most expensive, they tend to come with fewer side effects because they are a perfect fit.

Potential side effects of night guards

Let's take a look at some of the common problems that people experience with night guards.

night mouth guard side effects
Learn about night guard side effects

Minor discomfort

When you sleep with a night guard, you might experience minor discomfort and irritation simply because you are not used to wearing one.

After a few days or weeks, your mouth should get accustomed to wearing a night guard and you might even find it strange sleeping without one!

Irritation to gums, cheeks, or tongue

If the guard does not fit your teeth and gums well, it can cause irritation to the surrounding areas. The tongue or the insides of the cheeks may take some time before they get used to pressing against a fixed surface all night long.

Poor fit causing pain or soreness

People often experience problems with over-the-counter night guards because of a poor fit.

A night guard that is too small or thin may be ineffective at preventing your teeth from clenching together.

A poorly fitting night guard can also cause you to gag or even choke because of its instability in the mouth. This is more likely if you have bruxism-related TMJ disorders because increased pressure on your jaw muscles can shift or dislocate your device.

A poorly-fitting night guard may put pressure on certain teeth and, over time, cause them to change position.

Investing in a custom night guard is the best way to protect against these potential side effects.

Dry mouth

If the device is too large, it can cause your front teeth to be pushed forward and your lips to pucker as they try to hold it between your teeth.

If you end up sleeping with your mouth open because of this, you may wake up with a dry mouth (and bad breath).

Enamel damage

If food or other particles get stuck in your night guard, this can lead to cavities or gum disease.

This is why you should always brush and floss before inserting your night guard and not eat or drink anything except water until you remove it in the morning.

Jaw pain

Although night guards are intended to relieve jaw pain from teeth grinding and clenching, occasionally people find that wearing a night guard makes the pain worse.

Again, this is often down to a poor fit because uneven contact with the teeth can result in even more clenching.

If you notice your jaw pain worsening after wearing a nightguard, or it feels like your jaw alignment is changing, you should consult your dentist.

How to avoid dental night guard side effects

While these side effects are serious and could mean irreversible damage, there is a way to avoid them: finding a nightguard that fits properly and is an appropriate thickness for your level of clenching or grinding.

With this in mind, we recommend purchasing a custom night guard rather than a boil-and-bite or one-size-fits-all type. Although a custom device is more of an investment, it will fit your teeth properly and protect against the majority of night guard side effects.

Where to buy a custom night guard

mouth guard side effects
Make your impressions at home

You can visit your dentist to get advice about purchasing a custom night guard. Based on the symptoms you are experiencing, they will be able to advise you on the best style of night guard for you.

However, dental night guard costs can be quite high. Another option is to order a custom night guard online and take your own dental impressions at home.

Smile Brilliant is an oral healthcare brand that offers affordable custom-made nightguards that you can order online from the comfort of your home. These nightguards are just 2mm thick, so they are very comfortable to wear, but they can handle the daily grind — pun intended.

If you order from Smile Brilliant, the process is quite straightforward:

  • Order your impression kit: Go online and order an impression kit. You'll receive it in the mail and make impressions of your teeth at home. Then you send them into the lab in the prepared envelope.
  • Your nightguards are made: Your mouthguards are crafted and tailored to your teeth, and in the case of Smile Brilliant guards, hand-finished for maximum comfort.
  • Get your nightguards: You'll receive your night guard in the mail and can begin using it while you sleep right away. With Smile Brilliant, each guard lasts for about 3 months if you are a heavier tooth grinder. That's why they keep your impressions on file so it's easy to reorder your new ones.


teeth night guard side effects
Custom-made night guards are the best way to go

Dental night guards are great for protecting your teeth from grinding, but there are some potential dental night guard side effects. If you’re looking to purchase a dental night guard, we recommend purchasing a custom-fit one over the store-bought kind.

Companies like Smile Brilliant offer affordable and convenient ways to order custom-made night guards online.

Customized dental products fit comfortably and offer better protection against any unwanted side effects of wearing a standard mouthguard at bedtime. 

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