dental night guard

What is the Difference Between an Upper or Lower Night Guard?

Medically reviewed and verified by:

Dr. Lara Coseo, (DDS, FAGD) is a 2004 graduate of Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas, Texas. 

Having practiced general dentistry for 13 years, Dr. Lara currently serves as an Associate Professor at Texas A&M College of Dentistry.

Upper Or Lower Dental Night Guard

Upper or lower dental night guard? Which one do I choose?

Many people grind or clench their teeth at night during sleep. This is a condition known as nocturnal bruxism. Over time, bruxism can lead to the wearing away of the teeth enamel, as well as a host of other problems such as cracked teeth or jaw pain. After the enamel is worn, this also opens up the opportunity for cavities to form in the teeth.

Although nocturnal bruxism typically can’t be “cured”, there is an easy solution for those who grind or clench at night in the form of wearing an upper or lower dental night guard. While there are some dental night guards that can be purchased from commercial, big box stores, a bruxer’s best bet is to have one custom made, by your dentist or an online dental night guard lab. This ensures a proper, effective fit that provides comfort and prevents slipping.

The dental night guard acts as a cushioned barrier between the upper and lower teeth, so that while your jaw may still, in fact, be going through the motions of grinding or clenching, the teeth are not making contact with each other which prevents further damage to them.

Wearing a night guard does not CURE teeth grinding.

Yet it effectively saves your teeth from physical harm and can save a person thousands of dollars in dental repair bills. It can also relieve uncomfortable pain that stems from the act of grinding the teeth and clenching the jaw.

“Should I Buy an Upper Or Lower Dental Night Guard?”

Dental night guards can be made for either the upper teeth or the lower teeth, but usually not both.

Many people wish to know “what is the difference between an upper or lower night guard?”. They also wish to know if one type of guard is better than the other – and which they should choose.

For common cases of bruxism, most find that either one will provide the same results. The upper dental night guard is still the most common type made, but this may simply be due to a slow progression towards the acceptance & use of lower night guards within the industry. In other words, it may be that, because the dental night guard was originally made for the upper teeth, dentists/lab technicians are still commonly fabricating the upper teeth guard out of habit or preference for no substantiated reason. Though you will always find varying opinions such as dentists who favor lower guards for their patients who grind their teeth.

Most people will first learn of their bruxing disorder through their dentist, so naturally, they make a follow-up appointment in order to have impressions made for a custom dental night guard.

An alternative and cost-effective option for creating a great fitting custom night guard is to contact us here at Sentinel Mouthguards.

We will mail out a dental impression kit for you to take your own impressions at home, then, you mail the impressions back to our lab and we’ll have the custom guard made for you. We provide you with a cost-saving solution, without ever having to leave your home! More about this can be found on our FAQs page.

Either way, a custom-made guard provides you with a much better fit than one of the boil and bite versions you might buy from your local pharmacy or retail outlet.

Most mouth guards are made from materials such as acetate, rubber, acrylic, or vinyl. You should check to make sure your night guard is BPA, Silicon, and Latex free.

When either an upper or lower dental night guard fits properly, the wearer should not experience slipping or moving of the guard. They also should not be able to “spit” the guard out during sleep. The guard should be comfortable and mold itself to the form of your teeth, while keeping the teeth in place. This is another reason why an upper or lower dental night guard made by a dental professional or lab is far superior to those found in stores.

Sentinel Mouthguards are made from BPA, Silicon & Latex FREE material.

EVA (Ethylene – Vinyl Copolymer) is the material used for the Sentinel Soft Dental Night Guard. This product contains no HAPs or ODS & does not contain any chemicals listed under the U.S. Clean Water Act Priority Pollutant and Hazardous Substance List. This product is not considered to be hazardous under the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard and is regulated under Section 311-312 (40 CFR 370). It is safe to use in the mouth on a nightly basis and will not irritate the oral area or skin.

The Sentinel Hard Dental Night Guard is made of a copolyester material. Prolonged contact is non-irritating to the oral cavity or skin. This product also neither contains HAPs or ODS, nor any chemicals listed under the U. S. Clean Water Act Priority Pollutant and Hazardous Substance List and is not considered to be hazardous under the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard.

Finally, the Sentinel Dual-Laminated Night Guard is a combination of both materials stated above and meets all likewise requirements.

Taking your dental impression on the upper teeth and lower teeth

If you opt for a lower dental impression, you’ll notice that the impression tray will look slightly different from an upper teeth impression tray. The lower tray has a “cut out” for your tongue. Follow the instructions exactly as written and you will be sure to get a great impression no matter which teeth arch you choose – ensuring that your upper or lower dental night guard fits like a glove.

lower teeth impression tray
Lower teeth impression tray. Slightly different than an upper impression tray. Note the cutout for the tongue
upper teeth dental impression tray
Upper teeth impression tray
sentinel mouthguards dental impression instructions
Your Sentinel Mouthguard dental impression instructions will come with directions for taking the upper teeth impression. Please note it is the same exact process for the lower teeth.

sentinel mouthguards impression instructions with photos
What are the dentists saying?

Here are some varying opinions from dentists on whether to choose an upper or lower night guard:

“Both upper or lower dental night guards serve the same function. They provide a gliding surface for teeth to rub against rather than a direct impact on teeth to teeth. If someone has a gag reflex, we may recommend a lower night guard .”  –Mark Bishara, DDS

“After 21 years of making these occlusal guards, I find that lower appliances are better tolerated and provide a significantly better therapeutic effect. 24 hours is all that is necessary to get used to it. The tongue adapts beautifully.” –Marc G. Rothman, DMD

“The design of your dental night guard is dependent on several factors, which might include your bite, the affect on speech or airway, your tolerance for having an appliance in your mouth, or even the preference of your dentist; just to name a few. There is no “right way” that applies to every situation. What is most important is that it fits, is used, and protects your teeth and jaw joint from the destructive forces that can accompany the harmful habits of unconscious grinding. For long term use, the night guard should also cover all the teeth. This kind of design prevents shifting of your teeth and changes to your bite.”  –Jonathan F. Richards, DDS

Reference Source: Doctorbase.com

The Bottom Line
Consult your dentist as to whether they feel your individual case would benefit most from an upper or lower night guard. In most cases, it’s simply a matter of getting a well fitting guard that does its job of keeping the upper and lower jaw from coming into contact with each other.

alcohol make my teeth grinding worse

Alcohol & Teeth Grinding

Does Drinking Alcohol Make My Teeth Grinding Habit Worse?

Carla noticed that her teeth and jaw hurt more after the nights that she would have a couple of drinks before bed.

“My teeth pain is definitely worse the next morning after drinking alcohol compared to nights when I don’t drink,” she tells her dentist.

“Wearing my night guard helps a lot… when I remember to wear it.” she adds.

Carla confesses that on the nights that she has imbibed, she is less likely to remember to wear the night guard before bed.
“I forget!” She tosses up her hands casually.

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Her dentist gives her a look and again stresses the importance of wearing the night guard.

“Think of it like a protective case for your teeth. The power of your jaw is greater at night. Much greater. It can do a lot of damage over long periods of time. Your teeth have little micro cracks in them. Fracture lines. I can see them. Alcohol & teeth grinding are linked. Alcohol intake before bed disrupts sleep patterns and can intensify teeth grinding,”


“And soon… You’ll experience far more than just a little pain and discomfort
(if you keep forgetting to wear your night guard that is).”

“Like what?” Carla asks.

“Eventually your teeth can start chipping and breaking. The teeth pain and jaw pain will become greater. You may begin to experience tooth sensitivity.
Not to mention teeth flattening that will make your skin around the mouth appear saggy.”

Carla’s eyes widen in alarm.

Her dentist smiles kindly. “It’s preventable Carla. Don’t drink before bed and WEAR YOUR NIGHT GUARD.”

Does Drinking Alcohol Make My Teeth Grinding Habit Worse? Really?

Recent research points to YES.

A series of over 800 studies were conducted on the link between sleep bruxism and alcohol consumption. Of these 800 studies, the authors selected 7 to be included (samples ranging from 51 to over 10,000 participants).

The findings were published in The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA). Results showed that sleep bruxism was highly associated with alcohol and tobacco use – even more than patients who drank 8 or more cups of coffee a day!

It turns out that as far as nighttime teeth grinding goes, alcohol wreaks even more havoc on your teeth than an entire pot of coffee. Eek!

The study concluded by stating that while there is a correlation between alcohol & teeth grinding, more research is needed to further evaluate the effects of consuming alcohol, teeth grinding and the resulting damage that can occur.

Your Teeth Grinding Habit is Generally Linked to Stress.

As if carrying the weight of stress isn’t enough (sigh)? Now our teeth have to hurt too!

Most often, the stress in one’s life is how it begins. We hold tension in our upper back, neck and jaw. We clench our teeth together during the day and at night.

But the keyword here is “habit”. Once a habit is formed, it is hard to break.
Your stressful days may be long behind you, but that pesky teeth grinding habit can hang in their like a hair in a biscuit!

Bruxism can be an incredibly difficult habit to break, and one thing that does not help in the quest to stop nightly teeth grinding is the consumption of alcohol.

Things you can do to lessen the severity of teeth grinding, or stop it all together

1.) Lower stress levels.

These are things you probably already know, but are you implementing them?

Daily exercise reduces stress levels. It’s a known fact. Make good day to day decisions. Good decisions build self confidence.

Eat better. Be kinder to yourself and other people. Remember Newton’s 3rd law of motion? For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Be the best version of yourself. Stay away from negative people. Take control of your life or it will take control of you!

2.) Avoid alcohol, caffeine and any type of stimulants – such as adderall, diet pills, etc.

Teeth grinding intensifies after consuming these things, especially at night. Alcohol & teeth grinding are two habits that do not go together well. The end result can be damaged teeth and a whole lot of pain.

If you have a glass of wine, get it over with early in the evening and give yourself a few hours to wind down, or better yet, avoid it entirely!

Don’t drink coffee late in the day and for goodness sake how bout’ we put the cocaine and meth down shall we? For good!

3.) Wear a dental night guard.

Wearing a dental night guard for your teeth can greatly reduce and even eliminate the jaw pain and teeth pain that stems from grinding and clenching teeth.

It will 100% protect your teeth from further damage. It provides protection from the teeth so that there is no tooth on tooth contact. Make sure your night guard fits well and is comfortable in the mouth.

Avoid mass produced “one size fits all” dental night guards as the ill-fit and bulkiness can cause discomfort.

Signs that you’re grinding or clenching your teeth

  • Teeth pain/sensitivity
  • Jaw pain
  • Chipped or broken teeth
  • Your partner hears you grinding your teeth
  • Your dentist says you’re grinding your teeth

alcohol stimulants and teeth grinding

You Are In Control.

If you believe you’re suffering from teeth or jaw pain because of excessive teeth grinding, a.k.a. Bruxism, contact your dentist as he/she can evaluate the health of your teeth.

Take control early. Wearing a dental night guard is PREVENTATIVE. It can save you thousands of dollars down the road.

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