Night Guards

What Does a Dental Night Guard Look Like?

how does a dental night guard work

what does a dental night guard look like?It is well known that a smile is an important asset in life, yet it is often taken for granted. Whether you flaunt your all-natural teeth when you smile, or have cosmetically enhanced your teeth in one way or the other, a dental night guard may be the solution you need to protect your teeth.

But what does a night guard look like?

A dental night guard is a device that is normally considered to be the first-line treatment for teeth grinding (bruxism). Often known as an occlusal splint, the dental night guard might cover just one row of teeth, or both rows depending on one’s requirements.

Generally, a night guard is recommended to be worn on one tooth arch only (not both). The best night guard type is custom fitted to help reduce the clenching and grinding during the night. It is worn at night (and sometimes during the day) to prevent potential tooth damage caused by the grinding or clenching.

The action of grinding or clenching teeth at night is considered a sleep disorder. The effects of stress, one’s irregular bite, medications, stimulants, or other issues may be the cause.

Wearing a night guard will significantly reduce the effects of continuous grinding & clenching by creating a barrier between the chewing surfaces of the teeth, preventing direct tooth on tooth contact.

What does a dental night guard look like?

Dental night guards can vary greatly in terms of construction. Materials, thickness and style can differ depending on the maker of the guard. The most popular night guard type is a full arch night guard. The full arch guard simply means it covers all of either your upper or lower teeth. Most guards are made with soft, hard or a combination of both materials.

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Ordering a Night Guard Online

First, decide which night guard type is right for you. One common question we’re asked is which thickness to choose.

The 2mm thickness is the most common choice. Just to give you a reference point, 2mm is about the same thickness as a nickle.

If you’re a heavy grinder, you may need a more durable 3mm night guard (available in soft only).

The 1mm guard is very thin and typically recommended for daytime use. Remember, any of our guards will serve the function of protecting your teeth from the damages associated with teeth grinding and jaw clenching.

Once your order has been placed, you will receive a do-it-yourself dental impression kit. This kit contains two plastic trays of different sizes (choose which fits best for you), blue and white putty paks, instructions, and a prepaid return mailer.

Taking your dental impression is easy. Check out our “how to” video for simple instructions. Upon receipt of your dental impression, we will make your custom guard within 8-12 business days and ship it to you.

How Does a Dental Night Guard Work Exactly?

A dental night guard will reduce your teeth grinding problem by:

  • Relaxing your jaws, thereby reducing muscles spasms
  • Easing the tension that leads to a constant ache and alleviating constant headaches
  • Allowing your jaw muscles to align properly, thereby preventing your teeth from constantly locking together
  • Providing an alternative solution to help prevent the wearing of your teeth
  • It also cushions the teeth, thereby preventing your teeth from damage due to the grinding or clenching action

A dental night guard will not only protect your teeth against surface damage, gum problems (including recession) and loose teeth; it will also help strengthen your teeth.

During daytime, it is important to note that the teeth are supposed to meet when you are chewing or swallowing. At other times, teeth should be apart, and the lips together.

Teeth grinding can overtime wear away the teeth surface, making them susceptible to damage, or loose and painful.

While upper arch (maxillary) devices are often used to treat the condition, a lower arch device can be recommended to a patient who doesn’t want to have a visible or noticeable device in their mouth, or if they get a lot of gag reflexes with the maxillary device.

A night guard on either teeth arch will serve the same function. That is, to create a barrier so that the teeth do not have direct tooth on tooth contact with one another.

There are a number of materials that can be used to make a dental night guard, including hard and soft plastics, or combination of both. All materials are effective; although the hard night guards are less flexible and therefore more likely to stay in place longer – preventing direct tooth on tooth grinding for a longer period of time. These types are generally more expensive than soft night guards.

A professional dental lab can also tailor a dental night guard for your individual needs. The dimensions and outline of your mouth are recorded and used to make a custom night guard. This is usually the best night guard because it provides the best fit and comfort.

You may have bought a “one size fits all” dental night guard previously, but what you may not know is that an impression of your teeth should be used to make the dental night guard for the best results. A professional lab can customize a night guard for you based on your teeth impression.

Quality dental night guards can be quite affordable and you can easily avoid further damage to your teeth surface.

They can also help protect your valuable investment in case you have undergone a dental smile makeover. With these devices, some change in the fit can occur over time.

For instance, your dental anatomy may shift over the years and cause your dental night guard not to fit like it used to.

Night guards should be regularly assessed and adjusted to ensure they are well-fitting and serving their purpose well. Poorly devised or badly aligned night guards might not be able to solve the issue.

Well-adjusted dental night guards will enable anyone with bruxism to lead a normal lifestyle, without having to worry about tooth wear or any other dental-related issues.

For your dental night guard to properly limit the issue related to teeth grinding, it is highly recommended to wear the device every night. Some patients will ultimately be able to stop teeth grinding over time and the night guard won’t be required. In order to maintain the night guard, it must be properly cleaned after use – by thorough brushing and rinsing.

How Are Dental Night Guards Made?

Here is the process behind night dental guard creation:

Step 1: Impression Taking
This is a critical step to guarantee an excellent end-result. A negative copy of the lower and/or upper teeth is taken in order to create a stone cast from it.

The impression gels have viscosities that capture the softness and hardness of the tissues. This cast or mold is used in a dental laboratory to create the custom dental night guard.

In a dental office, most often a type of alginate is used to take your dental impression. The powdery alginate is mixed with water. You may remember seeing this sticky mixture if you have ever had your dental impression taken in a dental office setting.

The impression material you receive when you order online is not messy like alginate, but gives the same, clear results.

It is similar to play-doh in texture and mixes together easily with no residue. Taking your own dental impression is easy. Mix the two putties together, and roll them into a hotdog-like shape.

Place the putty in the tray and submerge all the whites of your teeth. Hold very still, and the putty will begin to harden. Then, simply remove the tray when the putty has completely hardened.

Step 2: Making of the Mold

Once the impression has been taken, it is time to pour up the stone cast of the teeth. Here you may begin to understand why the impression taking process is so important.

A stone replica of your teeth should capture all of your unique dental anatomy.

It should be a perfect cast of your exact teeth. The gum margin should be visible too.

Our lab mixes a powdery dental stone and water together to create a thick, soupy mixture. The stone is then laid carefully into the teeth impression. It’s stacked high to create a nice base, and the weight of the stone disrupts any bubbles that may have formed in the teeth area.

Now we wait for the stone to harden. Hardening times differ (on average, it’s about a 20-minute wait time). The stone will becomes hot, then cools down.

After the model is dry and hard, we carefully remove the stone from the dental impression.

It is always necessary to trim the excess stone material. All of this prep work is to ensure that the night guard is as accurate as possible.

It is imperative not to skip steps. We make sure that the back of the stone cast lays completely flat, so that the night guard material can distribute evenly across the surfaces of the teeth.

When the model is trimmed and dried, it is then sprayed with a lubricant so that the night guard material separates easily from the stone mold later on.

Step 3: Fabrication
night guard for TMJNow that the model is ready for fabrication, the process to follow is a method of bilamination by thermopressure.

In this process, the trimmed model and night guard sheet is placed under a heater to soften the night guard material. A timer is set, and the mold is ready to be thermoformed and pressurized.

After this process, the mold is left to cool down before a second trimming takes place. A skilled technician uses multiple burs, cutting wheels, and a bit of artistry to create a well-fitted custom appliance.

Step 4: Delivery
When the dental guard is finished, it is delivered to the customer to try on and check for fit and comfort. The guard should be stable and not cause any kind of pain or discomfort.

Some tightness may be felt initially, but should ease after a few days of consistent use.

Rarely, the customer asks for minor adjustments. If everything fits perfectly, the customer also receives instructions for proper wear and care of the guard.

A case is also provided to keep it in when not in use.

Teeth grinding or bruxism can greatly weaken the teeth, cause chipping and high sensitivity. If it’s left untreated, not only the health of the teeth and jaw can be compromised, but your overall health and lifestyle can change.

A professionally made dental night guard can relieve the pain and discomfort caused by teeth grinding and jaw clenching, plus protect teeth from further damage (weakening, breakage, flattening).

The night guard keeps teeth from making direct contact with one another, which helps avoid the effects of teeth grinding and jaw clenching.

Every case is different. It is important to speak to a certified dental professional to see if the use of a dental night guard is needed, and what type of night guard is more appropriate for a specific situation.

Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, is a serious condition that can lead to a number of problems; jaw disorders, jaw pain, earaches, and persistent headaches, to name a few. This condition affects people from all ages, and the generally identified causes can be physical, psychological – or both.

These include:

  • Emotions, like stress, frustration, anger, or anxiety
  • Personality, either hyperactive, competitive or aggressive
  • Malocclusion which is the abnormal alignment of the teeth
  • Sleep problems
  • Acid reflux
  • Response to pain
  • Complications from certain disorders
  • Genetics

A person with bruxism requires treatment.

An immediate solution to stopping all the dental damage and health problems this condition causes is the use of a professionally made dental night guard.

As opposed to the over-the-counter mouth guards, a professionally made dental guard will fit the patient’s mouth to the tiniest detail, protecting teeth and the jaw from additional pain and damage during sleep.

The way the dental night guards are fabricated guarantees their effectiveness due to the preciseness of the process the dental lab goes through.

This process also gives the patient not only the piece of mind of wearing a guard professionally made –just for them,– but also the comfort of having good sleep without feeling discomfort from the guard in their mouth.


Ashely Notarmaso

Ashely Notarmaso is the author behind the Sentinel Mouth Guard Blog. She is the CEO and founder of Sentinel Mouth Guards (Founded in 2012) Her long-time work in the dental mouth guard arena and her excellent ability to listen to customer concerns in this often contradictory field has laid the groundwork to explore night guard/mouth guard fabrication in-depth and address real concerns. With the help of her team, she has created a unique fabrication method that promises a great fitting custom oral appliance every time. Amazon’s choice for #1 mouth guard! Visit the online store

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