how night guards work

Best Mouth Guard For Grinding and Teeth Clenching

Medically reviewed and verified by Dr. Greg Grillo on 07/01/20
Dr. Greg Grillo is a 1995 University of Washington School of Dentistry graduate practicing in North Central Washington. He’s now the senior partner of Grillo Robeck Dental, an innovative practice blending technology with exceptional staffing to provide relationship-based healthcare. Dr. Grillo has consulted with hundreds of dental manufacturers, marketing agencies, and practices as an expert in many facets of dentistry.

This article takes a deep-dive into all night guard related topics. Review night guard types, costs, causes of bruxism, TMJ, wear instructions, and proper routine cleaning.

The best mouth guard for teeth grinding and teeth clenching is one that’s custom-made for you.

Why is a professional custom-made mouth guard for teeth grinding the preferred choice to help relieve symptoms of bruxism

First! Let’s be clear about bruxism.

“What is Bruxism?”

Bruxism is the excessive grinding of the teeth and/or clenching of the jaw.

Bruxism is an oral parafunctional activity. In other words, it’s NOT an activity related to normal function such as eating or talking.

People need the protective qualities of a mouth guard when they discover they’re grinding or clenching their teeth, a condition known as bruxism.

The prevalence of bruxism ranges from 8–31% in the general population and can involve patients of every age.

Note* Sleep bruxism can be definitively diagnosed in a sleep laboratory by means of a detailed test called polysomnographic recordings. Any Bruxism sufferer should consider the possibility of sleep apnea.

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The Dental Night Guard for Teeth Grinding and Jaw Clenching

The custom dental night guard – also referred to as the occlusal guard, nA custom dental night guard, also referred to as an occlusal guard, night guard, nocturnal bite plate, dental guard, night/mouth guard for teeth grinding, and “bite splint,” is a precise, custom-fit mouth guard for teeth grinding. These appliances are made by first taking dental impressions of your teeth.

Wearing a custom night guard protects the teeth from excessive wear and can relieve pain and discomfort in the teeth, facial muscles, and jaw joints.

A stone replica of your exact dental anatomy is made from your impression. There are significant differences between a custom-made dental guard and a stock-type guard bought over-the-counter.

Stock Night Guard vs. Custom Made

The main problem with a “one size fits all” appliance is that the shape, size, and contours of people’s mouths are different from each other.

Ex: Men typically have bigger mouths than women.

A growing teenager will need a completely different night guard than an adult. The alignment and arrangement of teeth can vary significantly.

Disappointment usually follows when you buy an over-the-counter type (even the boil & bite guards). If they don’t fit well, they end up set aside and unused.

Store-bought night guards are affordable, but the potential problems often outweigh the benefits. The most common complaints include: “Too bulky”, “uncomfortable to sleep in”, “falls out during the night”, “wears down too quickly”, etc.

“DO I REALLY HAVE TO WEAR A NIGHT GUARD IF I GRIND MY TEETH?”

If you are grinding/clenching your teeth night after night, a night guard should be considered essential.

A professional-fit night guard provides an appliance that feels comfortable, fits right, and lasts a long time. An online dental lab or your local dental office can make this option work for you.

An online night guard lab helps significantly reduce the cost that often comes with custom-made appliances. Using this convenient method, you can order directly through a reputable night guard company.

“HOW DOES PURCHASING ONLINE WORK?”

After placing your order, the lab ships a do-it-yourself impression kit directly to you. This impression kit consists of mixing putty and a plastic tray.

You take your own dental impression and mail it back to the company. Your custom night guard will be processed and shipped to you. Cost varies from company to company, but you can expect to pay between $100-$200 for a custom night guard.

Be sure to choose an online lab that works with you to make sure that you end up with the right guard for you.

At Sentinel Mouthguards, we guarantee you’re completely satisfied with your purchase or your money back! The Sentinel warranty and return policy is second-to-none!

We stand by our products and will always work with you to bring unquestionable satisfaction. If you’re dissatisfied with your product for any reason, you can either contact Sentinel within 90 days for a full refund or opt to continue working with us until you get a great fitting guard. Our firm commitment to you is 100% satisfaction, no matter what.

Choosing to purchase through your local dental office carries more cost. Dental office prices vary GREATLY with average prices between $400-$1200.

sentinel hard dental night guard
Finding the Type of Mouth Guard For Teeth Grinding and Clenching That’s Right For You

You may find yourself confused when you start shopping for a nightguard. It’s not something you look for every day, so questions are normal.

How do you know if you need a hard type or a soft type? What exactly is a dual-laminated night guard? What if you grind your teeth during the day? Do you need to be wearing a day-time guard as well? And most importantly, will any of these guards be comfortable enough during sleep?

These are all critical questions. We’ve noticed that people frequently search the web for answers but the information they find tends to be conflicting and vague.

“SO HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU NEED A HARD NIGHT GUARD, A SOFT ONE, OR THE DUAL-LAMINATE TYPE?“

Here’s the not-so-great news. Even dentists don’t agree on which mouth guard for grinding teeth is better. But a dentist can look at your teeth and tell you if the severity and rate of damage that’s occurring.

You may also know if you’re doing serious damage to your teeth. If you wake up every day with mouth/jaw/teeth soreness and a headache, odds are that you’re grinding or clenching your teeth.

But wait! There is good news!

The good news is that any type of well-fit, custom-made night guard will protect you from direct tooth-to-tooth contact. Consistent wear will prevent teeth from damage and the effects that are associated with teeth grinding and/or jaw clenching. These symptoms include headaches, jaw pain, and facial pain. In addition, teeth may break and crack from excessive forces.

Tune into your body and evaluate your own teeth-grinding habits. Are you in a lot of pain night after night? Is the pain in your teeth or jaw? Both? Are you noticing missing pieces on any teeth?

A thin 1mm night guard is a perfect discreet solution for daytime use.

Make an informed decision based on what you know about your unique situation. Discover what type of teeth grinder/jaw clencher you are (heavy, moderate or light) and take a step in the right direction.

Let’s begin!

Different types of custom night guards

Sentinel Soft Night Guard

Types and features of soft dental night guard

sentinel soft dental night guard

There are two main types of soft dental night guards. Over-the-counter (store-bought) and custom-made night guards.

Custom vs. Store-Bought

The custom made night guard is a special guard that is professionally mA custom-made night guard is a special appliance that’s professionally modified to fit the patient’s dental anatomy. This style ensures that the teeth don’t grind and that you sleep comfortably without pain. Custom-made guards are the most comfortable version available. They also help prevent soreness, headaches, and jaw pain better than any other model.

Store-bought night guards are bulk manufactured to fit the masses. Because these are factory-produced, they may not be as comfortable as those made just for you. These generic appliances usually have a default size and fit. Also, the inferior material used is a lesser quality than custom made dental night guards, and it tends to wear down much quicker.

Pros and cons of a soft night guard

The Pros


The soft night guard may prove to be the most comfortable. Even if you try grinding your teeth while you have the guard on, your teeth are protected. Custom-made soft guards are designed to fit the precise anatomy of the teeth and are totally flexible. Compared to the hard and dual laminated guards, these tend to be more adaptable and easier to first tolerate.

The Cons


Though the soft dental guards are comfortable in the mouth, some people may innately want to clench or grind on the soft material. One study showed that some of the patients using soft dental guards will attempt to chew the guard and may grind more aggressively when it’s in place. Another negative is that a soft dental guard has a limited lifespan. Most of the companies (including Sentinel Mouthguards) that build soft night guards will limit their warranty to six months. Other types of dental guards are more stable and usually last for a longer time than soft versions.

What are dentists saying about the soft night guard?


Regardless of the limitations of soft dental night guards, they’re still the most common type of guards on the market.

These night guards are recommended by many dentists due to their easy adaptability and high customer satisfaction. Dentists often advise patients to choose custom-made guards. So, keep in mind that a soft custom-made night guard is still superior to store-bought “one size fits all” versions

Choosing a professionally custom-made night guard helps enhance comfort and limit abnormal grinding. The guard also feels more comfortable than over-the-counter guards.

The soft dental night guard is still a solid choice if you have teeth-grinding or clenching issues when sleeping.

KEY POINTS ABOUT THE SOFT GUARD

  • The most common type produced in dental offices
  • High customer satisfaction rate
  • Many customers report soft guards as the most comfortable.
  • This soft design has generally been the most common style of night guard produced in dental offices. But recent research reveals that the soft material may actually encourage grinding or clenching by up to 50%. This research reveals that the thicker stock may be to blame. Boil & bite guards, those purchased over-the-counter and conformed to their teeth, often cause the same problem. You should be aware of this risk when deciding on which guard to choose.
  • Professionally-made custom soft guards are small and comfortable but may wear down faster than the dual-laminated and hard acrylic guards (depending on the degree of your grinding or clenching habits).
  • Sentinel Mouthguards offers a 6-month replacement warranty on this style even if you grind through your guard or it breaks.

Sentinel Hard Night Guard

Features of hard dental night guard

custom mouth guard

The hard acrylic night guard is small, low profile, and very durable.

These appliances are generally recommended for moderate to extreme grinders/clenchers or persons suffering from TMJ.

Teeth tend to naturally shift over time. A hard, non-flexible dental guard does not allow much “wiggle room” for ANY changes to the teeth. Keep this in mind when choosing an appliance.

If you plan on having dental work completed, your dental anatomy may change. A new crown, bridge, bonding, implants, veneers, or even new fillings could alter your anatomy enough to change how your night guard fits. In this case, consider getting a night guard made for the opposing arch or choose a more adaptable option.

In addition to wearing a hard night guard, you may need additional treatment if you’re suffering from TMJ symptoms. In some cases, a special type of night guard that could include ramps and/or metal clasps may need to be made by your dentist/TMJ specialist.

If you’re experiencing alignment issues or if you know you suffer from TMJ, please consult with a dentist before ordering a night guard online.

Sentinel Mouthguards offers a 1-year replacement warranty on this guard type if you grind through your guard or it becomes defective.

HARD NIGHT GUARD KEY POINTS

  • Non-Flexible
  • Durable
  • Not bulky, snaps into place
  • Can prevent teeth from shifting if worn consistently
  • Sentinel Mouthguards offers a 1-year replacement warranty on this appliance if you grind through your guard or it breaks

Sentinel Dual-Laminated Night Guard

Features of the dual laminated night guard

lower mouth guard for teeth grinding

This guard type is relatively new on the scene. It combines two layers of material (a soft inside and a hard acrylic outside).

This nighttime guard can handle moderate to heavy jaw clenching/teeth grinding.

The soft plastic is comfortable against the teeth and the hard outside acts as a protective shell. Customer feedback tells us this model often provides good satisfaction to users.

In fact, we’ve found that most people are very happy with the fit of the dual-laminated night guard.

Sentinel Mouthguards offers a 1-year replacement warranty if you grind through your guard or it breaks.

Pro tip: Sentinel Mouthguards guarantees 100% satisfaction. If you choose a guard and you’re not happy with it, we will make you a different type free of charge, or your money back (within 90 days of purchase)

Dual Laminated Night Guard Key Points

  • Semi-flexible appliance
  • Rates #1 in overall customer satisfaction, comfort and durability
  • Sentinel Mouth Guards offers a 1-year replacement warranty on this guard type if you grind through your guard or it becomes defective
  • This appliance must be kept dry between uses. If not, layers can separate if soaked in overnight cleaning solution or left with water sitting in the teeth compartments

When deciding on an upper or lower guard, there may be some obvious factors that help determine the best style.

For instance, if you’re missing teeth on either the upper or lower arch, you’ll want to choose the arch that has the most teeth. If you have upcoming dental work on your upper teeth that may change your dental anatomy, you will want to go with the least affected arch.

The same consideration should be given for loose teeth or loose crowns/bridgework, etc. You may want to choose an opposing guard and avoid the potential to loosen dental work or teeth with a tight-fitting night guard.

If your teeth are solid on both the upper and lower arches and you don’t have any plans for upcoming dental work, it really comes down to personal preference.

The upper guard has been the “go to” choice for many. But if you think a lower guard would feel more comfortable, then it’s an acceptable choice. If your dentist has recommended a certain arch, it’s always best to defer to their advice.

Many customers report that they prefer the lower mouth guard for grinding teeth because it tends to be smaller and less obtrusive.

NOTE: Tongue thrusters may be inclined to lift the edge of a lower night guard with the tongue. If you suspect this challenge, an upper guard may be the best choice.

“ARE NIGHT GUARDS BPA FREE? LATEX FREE? WHAT ARE NIGHT GUARDS MADE OF?”

custom night guard for teeth grinding

custom night guard for teeth grinding

Most night guards are made from EVA material (Ethylene-vinyl acetate, also known as EVA, the copolymer of ethylene and vinyl acetate). The material is BPA-free and latex-free and isn’t considered hazardous or toxic by OSHA per 29 CFR 1910

Ask your dentist or night guard lab to supply information regarding the materials used in the fabrication of your sleep device.

Sentinel Mouthguards’ appliances are made with ProForm materials.

All material used is BPA-free and latex-free and isn’t considered hazardous or toxic by OSHA per 29 CFR 1910.

“HOW DO I CLEAN MY NIGHT GUARD?”

  • Daily care of your night guard is essential to prevent bacterial growth and to maximize the longevity of your guard.
  • The night guard should be cleaned with a soft toothbrush and a mild soap. Some dentists recommend toothpaste as a cleaner. Keep in mind some toothpaste is too harsh and can leave a white residue in the crevices of the appliance. Dry the guard thoroughly and store it in its breathable retainer case. Get in the routine of cleaning daily to prevent bacteria and discoloration.
  • For a deep clean, soak your night guard in a denture cleaning solution. However, don’t soak it more than three times per month and not beyond the recommended time. This deep clean helps to keep the guard clear and like new.