Teeth Care

How Does a Dental Night Guard Work?

how does a dental night guard wirk?

Reviewed and update for accuracy on 06/11/23

A dental night guard also known as an occlusal guard is worn nightly to prevent the damaging effects of bruxism (nighttime teeth grinding and jaw clenching).

A night guard is a plastic device that is either mass produced (one size fits all) or custom made for you. The price point and quality of the dental night guard varies significantly depending on which option you choose.

The function of any night guard type (stock or custom made) is to prevent direct tooth on tooth contact. Wearing a night guard creates a barrier between the upper and lower teeth. This barrier disallows contact between the teeth thus preventing damage from direct tooth on tooth contact.

defend your teeth against the daily grind graphic

Here’s how a dental night guard works:

  1. Cushioning and Redistribution of Forces: When you grind or clench your teeth during sleep, it can create excessive pressure on your teeth, jaw joints, and surrounding muscles. A night guard acts as a cushion, absorbing and redistributing the forces generated by grinding or clenching. By doing so, it helps to minimize the impact on your teeth and jaw, reducing the potential damage.
  2. Tooth Surface Protection: Night guards are typically made of a soft or semi-soft material such as acrylic or silicone. When you wear a night guard, it creates a protective barrier between your upper and lower teeth. This barrier prevents direct contact between your teeth, minimizing the wear and tear caused by grinding or clenching.
  3. Jaw Joint Alignment: Bruxism can sometimes lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) issues, causing jaw pain, headaches, and other discomfort. A night guard helps to position your jaw in a stable and aligned position, reducing the strain on the TMJ and alleviating related symptoms.
  4. Muscle Relaxation: Teeth grinding or clenching can strain the muscles of your jaw, face, and neck, leading to muscle tension, pain, and headaches. By providing a barrier between your upper and lower teeth, a night guard helps to relax the muscles involved in bruxism. This relaxation can help reduce muscle fatigue and soreness.
  5. Protection against Dental Damage: Constant grinding or clenching can lead to various dental problems, such as tooth fractures, enamel erosion, and gum recession. A night guard provides a protective layer that helps to prevent these issues by absorbing the excessive forces and distributing them evenly.

It’s important to note that a dental night guard is not a cure for bruxism, but rather a management tool to mitigate the effects of teeth grinding or clenching. If you suspect that you have bruxism, it’s advisable to consult with a dental professional who can diagnose the condition and recommend appropriate treatment options.

How do you sleep with a night guard?

Here are some tips on how to sleep comfortably while wearing a night guard:

  1. Get accustomed to wearing the night guard: It may take a few nights to adjust to wearing a night guard while sleeping. Start by wearing it for short periods during the day to get used to the feeling before wearing it through the entire night.
  2. Follow proper cleaning and maintenance: Before wearing your night guard, make sure it is clean and free of debris. Brush your teeth and rinse the night guard thoroughly to ensure it is hygienic. Keeping your night guard clean will help prevent discomfort while sleeping.
  3. Find a comfortable position: Experiment with different sleeping positions to find the one that feels most comfortable with your night guard. Some individuals find that sleeping on their back is more suitable as it allows for even distribution of pressure. However, choose the position that works best for you.
  4. Relax your jaw and facial muscles: Prior to sleep, practice some relaxation techniques to help ease tension in your jaw and facial muscles. You can try gentle jaw stretches, facial massages, or placing a warm compress on your jaw to promote relaxation before bedtime.
  5. Ensure a proper fit: It is crucial that your night guard fits well to enhance comfort. Ill-fitting night guards can cause irritation and discomfort. If you experience persistent discomfort, consult with your dentist or manufacturer to evaluate the fit of your night guard and make any necessary adjustments.
  6. Stay consistent: Consistency is key when it comes to wearing a night guard. Make it a habit to wear your night guard every night to protect your teeth and jaw from grinding or clenching. This will also help you become more accustomed to sleeping with it.

Remember, if you experience ongoing discomfort or have concerns about wearing a night guard, it is important to consult with your dental professional. They can assess your specific situation and provide personalized guidance to ensure your comfort and overall oral health while using a night guard.

If I’m grinding on a night guard, am I still damaging the teeth that are grinding on the plastic guard?

This is a common question and the answer is found in the strength of our teeth. Our teeth are incredibly strong. The enamel (outermost layer of our teeth) is even stronger than bone. A teeth grinding habit that begins to cause physical symptoms has been in the making for many years. It is the direct tooth on tooth grinding and clenching that causes the problem. By placing the plastic guard between the teeth, we see an almost immediate decrease in jaw pain, inflammation, teeth sensitivity, jaw and teeth pain, and even some TMJD symptoms.

When you wear a night guard, it creates a protective barrier between your upper and lower teeth, which helps to minimize the direct contact and friction between the teeth. The purpose of the night guard is to absorb and distribute the forces generated by grinding or clenching, thereby reducing the potential damage to your teeth.

However, it’s possible that even with a night guard, some minimal wear or damage may still occur over time. Night guards are typically made of durable materials designed to withstand the grinding forces, but they are not completely indestructible. Depending on the severity of your grinding and the type of night guard you have, there may be some wear on the guard itself.

The night guard acts as a sacrificial surface, meaning that it is designed to absorb the forces and protect your natural teeth. If you notice significant wear or damage to your night guard, it is important to have it evaluated by your dentist, as it may need to be replaced to maintain its effectiveness.

Regular dental check-ups are also important to monitor the condition of your teeth and assess any potential damage. Your dentist can evaluate the wear on your night guard and examine your teeth for signs of wear, fractures, or other dental issues that may require attention.

Overall, while wearing a night guard helps to reduce the damage caused by grinding, it is still advisable to address the underlying cause of bruxism and explore treatment options with your dental professional to prevent further damage to your teeth and jaw.

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. Sentinel Night Guards come in three different thicknesses (thin, thicker and thickest).

Thin (for light teeth grinding/jaw clenching) = 1mm

Thicker (for moderate teeth grinding/jaw clenching) = 2mm

Thickest (for heavy teeth grinding/jaw clenching) = 3mm

The 2mm thickness is the most common choice. 2mm is the same thickness as nickel coin.

how thick is a dental night guard
This is a good reference point when determining the thickness of your dental night guard.

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

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 your 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.

Making your own dental impression is easy! Check out this video “Take Your Dental Impression With Me!” for simple instructions. Upon receipt of your dental impression, we will make your custom guard within 3-4 business days.

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
  • Breaking up direct tooth on tooth contact
  • 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 you get better sleep.

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.

Should I wear an upper or lower night guard?

While upper arch (maxillary) devices are often used to treat the condition, a lower teeth guard can be recommended to a patient who doesn’t want to have a visible or noticeable device in their mouth, or if they’re prone to a bad gag reflex caused by the upper night guard.

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

What is the difference between the material types used to make the night guards?

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 dentist-grade 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 a custom 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.

Dental Night Guard Fit

Night guards 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 should not be worn.

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.

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.

Visit us at https://sentinelmouthguards.com to shop custom night guards today!

hard dental night guard for lower teeth


sentinel mouthguards author
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 http://sentinelmouthguards.com

Verified By