Night Guards

Can a Night Guard Shift Your Teeth?

can a night guard change your bite?

As of December 31, 2023, we’ve revised this article to ensure the information provided is current and accurate.

Can a Night Guard Shift Your Teeth?

Night guards are primarily designed to protect teeth from the damaging effects of bruxism (teeth grinding) and jaw clenching during sleep. Generally, they aim to prevent further damage to the teeth and alleviate associated symptoms like jaw pain or headaches. However, the idea that night guards actively shift teeth is a bit complex.

Night guards can create a barrier that minimizes direct tooth-to-tooth contact, reducing the impact of grinding forces. This can potentially affect the wear and tear on the teeth and could have an indirect influence on tooth alignment over time. Some argue that constant wear of a night guard might encourage slight positional changes in the teeth, although this isn’t universally agreed upon in the dental community.

It’s crucial to recognize that any shift caused by a night guard would likely be subtle and, in many cases, negligible compared to other factors influencing tooth movement, like natural growth, genetics, or orthodontic treatments. Regular dental check-ups can monitor any changes and ensure your dental health remains optimal, especially if you have concerns about teeth shifting while using a night guard. Consulting with a dentist is the best approach to address individual concerns regarding tooth movement and the use of night guards.

did you know image

Your teeth will naturally shift throughout your lifetime. If you have had teeth removed, you may know firsthand how the teeth will move to fill the new empty space.

The position of your teeth can be influenced by various factors, including:

  1. Age-related changes: As you age, your teeth and supporting structures can undergo changes. This can include changes in bone density, tooth wear, and loss of elasticity in the gum tissues, which can contribute to slight shifts in tooth position.
  2. Oral habits: Certain oral habits such as tongue thrusting, thumb sucking, or prolonged use of pacifiers can exert pressure on the teeth, leading to tooth movement over time.
  3. Dental conditions: Conditions such as periodontal disease or tooth loss can affect the alignment of your teeth. When teeth are lost, neighboring teeth can shift to fill the space, potentially causing misalignment.
  4. Changes in bite: Changes in your bite relationship, such as missing teeth, dental restorations, or the loss of vertical dimension, can impact the alignment of your teeth. These changes can result in compensatory shifts in tooth position to achieve a more stable bite.
  5. Orthodontic relapse: Even after orthodontic treatment, there is a tendency for teeth to shift back towards their original position. This is known as orthodontic relapse and can occur if proper retention measures, such as wearing retainers, are not followed after treatment.
defend your teeth against the daily grind graphic

What is a dental night guard?

A night guard, also known as an occlusal splint or dental splint, is a removable dental appliance typically made of plastic. It is commonly used to protect teeth from grinding or clenching during sleep, a condition known as bruxism. While a night guard is primarily designed to protect the teeth and reduce the negative effects of bruxism, it can have some minor influence on tooth position.

Here are a few points to consider:

  1. Preventing further movement: If you have a misalignment or minor tooth movement, a night guard can help prevent further shifting by providing a barrier between your upper and lower teeth. It can help stabilize the current position of your teeth, but it is not intended to actively move them.
  2. Limited effect on tooth position: A night guard is not designed to actively shift teeth or correct major dental alignment issues. It may have a minimal impact on tooth position due to the force it exerts on the teeth and the way it affects the bite relationship, but this effect is typically minor and localized.
  3. Consult with a dentist or orthodontist: If you have concerns about tooth alignment or noticeable movement, it is best to consult with a dental professional. They can evaluate your specific situation and recommend appropriate treatment options if needed, such as orthodontic treatment or other dental procedures.

Remember, a night guard primarily serves as a protective device and should not be considered a substitute for comprehensive orthodontic treatment if you have significant tooth misalignment or malocclusion.

Will wearing my night guard shift my teeth?

Wearing a well-made, properly fitted night guard will not shift your teeth. However, it is possible that a night guard can shift your teeth.

A night guard can have a minor influence on tooth position due to the following reasons:

  1. Occlusal stabilization: By wearing a night guard, it can help stabilize the current position of your teeth by providing a barrier between your upper and lower teeth. This can prevent further shifting or movement of teeth in some cases.
  2. Bite adjustment: Night guards can sometimes modify the way your upper and lower teeth come together when you bite down. This can create slight changes in the forces exerted on the teeth, potentially leading to minor positional adjustments over time.
  3. Inaccurate dental impression: If a night guard is not made properly or if it is made from a distorted dental impression, it can potentially cause some issues that may affect tooth position

It’s important to note that the effects of a night guard on tooth position are typically minimal and localized. If you have concerns about tooth alignment or significant movement, it is best to consult with a dental professional who can evaluate your specific situation and recommend appropriate treatment options.

hard night guard made properly
A hard night guard should snap into place and fit like a glove.
Some initial tightness is normal but it should not feel like it’s pulling your teeth.

Is it common for a night guard to shift the teeth?

No, it is not common for a properly fitted night guard to cause significant shifts in teeth. A well-made night guard is designed to protect the teeth from grinding or clenching forces during sleep, rather than actively move or shift them.

However, there may be instances where a night guard can have a minor influence on tooth position. This can occur if the night guard is ill-fitting, made from a distorted dental impression, or if there are other underlying dental issues. In such cases, the night guard may contribute to localized tooth movement or changes in bite alignment.

Can a night guard change your bite?

Long-term use of a night guard, when properly fitted and used as directed, typically does not change your bite. Night guards are designed to provide a protective barrier between your upper and lower teeth, preventing damage caused by teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism). However, there are a few scenarios where wearing a night guard could potentially impact your bite:

  1. Overuse or improper fit: If a night guard is worn excessively or if it does not fit properly, it could potentially interfere with the natural alignment of your teeth. This can lead to changes in your bite over time. It’s important to follow your dentist’s instructions regarding the duration and frequency of night guard use, as well as ensure that it is properly fitted.
  2. Acrylic night guards: Some night guards are made of acrylic materials that are more rigid and can potentially cause changes in bite alignment. These changes are more likely to occur if the night guard is worn continuously for extended periods. Regular check-ups with your dentist can help monitor any changes in your bite and make adjustments if necessary.
  3. Underlying dental issues: In certain cases, if there are pre-existing dental conditions such as tooth misalignment or an uneven bite, wearing a night guard could exacerbate these issues. It is essential to have a thorough dental examination before using a night guard to identify and address any existing problems that may affect your bite.

While the potential for a night guard to change your bite is relatively rare, it’s important to work closely with your dentist throughout the process. Regular dental check-ups can help monitor any changes and ensure that your night guard is properly fitted and adjusted to minimize the risk of any significant impact on your bite.

What do I need to do if I feel like my night guard is shifting my teeth?

If you feel like your night guard is causing or contributing to shifts in your teeth, it is important to take the following steps:

  1. Consult with your dentist: Schedule an appointment with your dentist or orthodontist to discuss your concerns. They will examine your teeth, evaluate the fit and condition of your night guard, and assess any changes in tooth position. They can provide professional guidance and determine the best course of action.
  2. Evaluate the night guard fit: During the dental appointment, the dentist will examine the fit of your night guard. They may take new impressions or digital scans of your teeth to ensure an accurate fit. If the night guard is ill-fitting or causing issues, they may recommend adjustments, repairs, or the creation of a new night guard.
  3. Consider orthodontic evaluation: If there are significant shifts in tooth position or concerns about alignment, your dentist may refer you to an orthodontist for a comprehensive evaluation. Orthodontic treatment, such as braces or clear aligners, may be necessary to correct the tooth movement and improve the alignment of your teeth.
  4. Follow professional recommendations: It’s crucial to follow the advice and recommendations of your dental professional. They may suggest discontinuing the use of the night guard if it is deemed to be causing or exacerbating the tooth shifts. They will guide you on appropriate treatment options based on your specific situation.

Remember, addressing concerns about tooth position and seeking professional guidance promptly is essential to prevent further complications and ensure appropriate care for your dental health.

Why is it best to avoid one size fits all night guards?

example of store bought night guard

It is best to avoid one-size-fits-all night guards because they often do not provide an optimal fit and can potentially cause more harm than good. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Poor fit and comfort: One-size-fits-all night guards are designed to fit a wide range of individuals, but everyone’s mouth is unique in terms of size, shape, and dental anatomy. A poorly fitting night guard can be uncomfortable, bulky, or may not properly cover and protect your teeth. This can make it difficult to wear consistently and may lead to noncompliance.
  2. Inadequate protection: Night guards that do not fit properly may not provide adequate protection against teeth grinding or clenching. They may not evenly distribute forces or may allow teeth to come into contact, reducing their effectiveness in preventing wear, chipping, or other dental problems associated with bruxism.
  3. Potential for increased tooth shifting: Ill-fitting night guards can potentially contribute to tooth movement or shifts. If the night guard puts uneven pressure on the teeth or causes changes in the bite relationship, it can lead to localized tooth movement over time.
  4. Limited customization: One-size-fits-all night guards cannot be customized to address specific dental issues or concerns. They lack the individualized adjustments and precision that can be achieved with custom-made night guards. Custom night guards are made from impressions or digital scans of your teeth, ensuring a better fit and tailored protection.

For optimal protection and comfort, it is recommended to choose a custom-fitted night guard based on your specific needs. Made from an accurate impression or digital scans of your teeth, this type will ensure a proper fit and provide you with effective protection and reduces the risk of potential complications.

What are the side effects of dental night guards?

Dental night guards, also known as occlusal splints or bite guards, are commonly used to treat teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism) and related conditions. While night guards are generally safe and effective, there can be some potential side effects or considerations to be aware of:

  1. Jaw discomfort: Wearing a night guard may cause temporary jaw discomfort or muscle soreness, especially during the initial adjustment period. This is typically a result of your jaw getting used to the new positioning of the guard. In most cases, the discomfort subsides over time.
  2. Changes in bite: In some cases, long-term use of a night guard can cause changes in your bite alignment. This may lead to a temporary or permanent alteration in the way your upper and lower teeth fit together. It’s important to have regular dental check-ups to monitor any changes and ensure your bite remains properly aligned.
  3. Dry mouth: Wearing a night guard can occasionally contribute to dry mouth symptoms. The guard may interfere with saliva flow, leading to temporary dryness. Staying hydrated and maintaining good oral hygiene can help alleviate this issue.
  4. Speech changes: Initially, wearing a night guard may slightly affect your speech. You may experience some difficulty pronouncing certain sounds or feel an increased production of saliva. With time, most individuals adapt and these speech changes become less noticeable.
  5. Discomfort or irritation: Night guards are typically custom-fitted for maximum comfort, but there is still a chance of minor discomfort or irritation, such as gum tenderness or pressure on the teeth. If you experience persistent discomfort, consult your dentist to ensure proper fit and adjustment.
  6. Maintenance and cleanliness: Night guards require regular cleaning to prevent bacterial growth. Failure to maintain proper hygiene can lead to oral health issues or an unpleasant odor. Follow the recommended care instructions provided by your dentist to keep the night guard clean and in good condition.

It’s important to remember that the benefits of using a night guard to protect your teeth and jaw outweigh the potential side effects. If you have concerns or experience significant discomfort while using a night guard, consult with your dentist who can assess your specific situation and provide appropriate guidance or adjustments.

What is the best way to avoid teeth shifting while wearing a night guard?

Invest in a custom made night guard

The verdict is in.

Custom made night guards are the best option in terms of comfort, fit, & durability. If you’re wearing a store bought “one size fits all” dental guard and it’s hurting your teeth at night, opt to purchase a custom made night guard instead. Want to know the best part? You can get a high quality custom night guard directly from our online night guard lab for a fraction of the dental office cost.

What is the average cost of a night guard?

The cost of a night guard can vary depending on several factors, including the type of night guard, the complexity of the case, and the location and expertise of the dental provider. Here are some general cost ranges:

  1. Over-the-counter (OTC) night guards: OTC night guards are typically the least expensive option, ranging from around $10 to $50. However, these are not custom-fitted and may not provide the same level of comfort and protection as professionally made night guards.
  2. Boil-and-bite night guards: Boil-and-bite night guards are a step above OTC options and can be molded at home by softening the material in hot water and then biting into it to create a rough fit. These can range in price from around $20 to $50.
  3. Custom-made night guards: Custom-made night guards, which are created by dental professionals, offer the best fit, comfort, and protection. The cost can range from approximately $125 to $800 or more, depending on factors such as the type of material used, the complexity of the case, and the geographic location of the dental practice or lab.

It’s important to consider the long-term benefits and effectiveness of a custom-made night guard, as it is specifically designed to meet your individual needs and provide optimal protection against teeth grinding or clenching.

Why do my teeth hurt after wearing my night guard?

woman in pain after wearing a dental night guard

If your teeth hurt after wearing your night guard, there could be several possible reasons for this discomfort. Here are a few common causes:

  1. Adjustment period: It is common for some individuals to experience temporary discomfort or sensitivity when first wearing a night guard. Your teeth and jaw may need some time to adapt to the presence of the night guard. This discomfort usually subsides within a few days as your mouth becomes accustomed to the appliance.
  2. Bite misalignment: If the night guard is not properly fitted or adjusted, it can alter your bite relationship. This can lead to excessive pressure on certain teeth, causing them to feel sore or tender. Bite misalignment can result from a poorly made night guard or changes in your bite due to other factors.
  3. Excessive force or tightness: If the night guard applies excessive force or if it is overly tight, it can lead to tooth discomfort. This can occur if the night guard is not properly adjusted or if it has shifted during use.
  4. Grinding/clenching during sleep: If you have a tendency to grind or clench your teeth, the night guard can effectively protect your teeth but may not completely eliminate all forces. The residual forces from grinding or clenching can cause temporary tooth discomfort, especially if the night guard is not able to absorb or distribute the forces evenly.

How do I relieve tooth pain from wearing my dental night guard?

If you are experiencing tooth pain or discomfort from wearing your dental night guard, there are a few steps you can take to help alleviate the symptoms:

  1. Ensure proper fit: Check the fit of your night guard to ensure it is not too tight or causing excessive pressure on specific teeth. If you suspect an improper fit, consult with your dentist or orthodontist to make any necessary adjustments or obtain a new night guard.
  2. Gradual acclimation: If you have recently started wearing a night guard, give yourself time to gradually acclimate to it. Wear the night guard for shorter periods initially and gradually increase the duration over time to allow your teeth and jaw to adjust.
  3. Take breaks: If the discomfort persists, consider taking short breaks from wearing the night guard. This can help alleviate any pressure or soreness on the teeth. However, consult with your dental professional to determine the appropriate duration for breaks and ensure adequate protection during sleep.
  4. Over-the-counter pain relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help temporarily alleviate tooth pain. Follow the recommended dosage and consult with your pharmacist or healthcare provider if you have any specific concerns or medical conditions.
  5. Professional consultation: If the tooth pain or discomfort persists or worsens despite these measures, it is important to consult with your dentist or orthodontist. They can evaluate your specific situation, examine the fit of the night guard, and address any underlying issues that may be contributing to the pain.

Remember, it is crucial to address any persistent tooth pain or discomfort associated with wearing a night guard, as it may indicate an ill-fitting or improperly adjusted appliance. Your dental professional can provide appropriate guidance and make necessary modifications to ensure your comfort and oral health.

Why is my night guard causing irritation on my tongue or gums?

If your night guard is causing irritation on your tongue or gums, there are a few potential reasons for this discomfort:

  1. Poorly fitting night guard: An ill-fitting night guard can have rough edges or protrusions that rub against the tongue or gums, leading to irritation. This can occur if the night guard is not properly adjusted or if it has shifted during use.
  2. Material sensitivity: Some individuals may be sensitive or allergic to the materials used in the night guard. Certain plastics or dental materials can cause irritation or allergic reactions in some people, leading to discomfort on the tongue or gums.
  3. Excessive thickness or bulkiness: If the night guard is too thick or bulky, it can cause irritation by impinging on the tongue or pressing against the gums. This can occur if the night guard is not properly designed or if it has not been adjusted to fit your mouth properly.
  4. Improper cleaning or hygiene: Inadequate cleaning of the night guard can lead to the accumulation of bacteria or plaque, which can irritate the tongue or gums. It is important to clean the night guard thoroughly and regularly as per the instructions provided by your dental professional.

If you are experiencing irritation on your tongue or gums from wearing a night guard, consider the following steps:

  • Carefully inspect the night guard for any rough edges, protrusions, or signs of wear. If you notice any issues, consult with your dentist or orthodontist to make necessary adjustments or obtain a new night guard.
  • Ensure proper cleaning and maintenance of the night guard to minimize bacterial buildup.
  • If you suspect a material sensitivity or allergy, discuss your symptoms with your dental professional for further evaluation and potential alternative materials or options.

It is recommended to consult with your dental professional if the irritation persists or worsens despite these measures. They can examine the fit and condition of your night guard, address any concerns, and provide appropriate solutions to alleviate the discomfort.

What are the symptoms of an ill-fitting night guard?

An ill-fitting night guard can cause various symptoms and discomfort. Here are some common signs that may indicate your night guard does not fit properly:

  1. Discomfort or pain: An ill-fitting night guard can cause discomfort or pain in the teeth, gums, or jaw joint (temporomandibular joint). You may experience soreness, tenderness, or aching sensations.
  2. Pressure points or ulcers: The night guard may create pressure points on your gums, tongue, or other soft tissues inside your mouth. This can lead to irritation, sore spots, or even the development of ulcers.
  3. Difficulty in speaking or swallowing: If the night guard is too bulky or improperly positioned, it can interfere with your speech or swallowing abilities. You may find it challenging to pronounce certain sounds or experience discomfort while eating or swallowing.
  4. Shifting or movement of the night guard: An ill-fitting night guard may shift or move during sleep, leading to an uncomfortable sensation or disruption of sleep.
  5. Changes in bite or tooth alignment: In some cases, an ill-fitting night guard can alter your bite relationship or create imbalanced forces on your teeth. This can result in changes in how your upper and lower teeth come together, potentially causing bite problems or tooth movement.

Why is my night guard not fitting my mouth?

  • One common reason can be an inaccurate dental impression that was taken during your initial visit to the dentist – and if you ordered online, you may have distorted your dental impression. A clear cast of your teeth is essential in getting a well-fitting night guard.
  • Improper fabrication of your night guard. Your dental device could be made by an inexperienced worker causing an extremely tight fit or possibly one that’s too loose.

Many changes can happen in our mouths without us noticing. These changes may affect the fit of your night guard.

  • Pieces of food can lodge between your teeth or on the surface of a tooth. You may be able to remove these with a toothbrush or floss. Tartar or calculus can also build up. It may need to be removed by a hygienist. These obstructions can dislodge your night guard.
  • A new filling, or even replacing an old filling, can cause night guards to stop fitting. If you only wear your night guard at night, you may forget to tell your dentist. He will need to adjust it to fit the new filling area. Even if the filling is on an “opposing tooth”, a tooth opposite the night guard, it can affect how the guard fits and functions in your mouth.
  • Sometimes a chip out of a tooth changes the way it fits against the teeth around it. Even a small chip can be enough to change the way your night guard fits.

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.


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

Verified By

medically reviewed by dr lara coseo
Dr. Lara Coseo, (DDS, FAGD)

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.

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