Introduction to Dental Night Guards: Dental night guards, also known as occlusal splints or bite splints, are oral devices designed to protect your teeth and jaw from the effects of grinding or clenching, also known as bruxism.
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Night guards create a barrier between the upper and lower teeth, preventing them from coming into direct contact and reducing the negative impact of grinding. Night guards are commonly used during sleep, but some types can be worn during the day as well. Let’s explore the various types of dental night guards:
In this new guide, you’ll learn about the different types of custom night guards and which one is right for you.
Checked and updated for accuracy on June 25th, 2023
Custom-Fit Night Guards: Custom-fit night guards are professionally made by dentists or dental laboratories. They involve taking impressions of your teeth to create a personalized night guard that fits your mouth perfectly. Custom-fit night guards offer the best comfort, protection, and durability. They are suitable for individuals with all levels of bruxism, especially for those with severe grinding habits. Hard, dual laminated and soft night guards all can be custom made to fit the individuals exact dental anatomy.
Soft Night Guards: Soft night guards are made of a pliable material called thermoplastic. They offer a cushioning effect, making them comfortable to wear. Soft night guards are suitable for individuals with mild bruxism or those who have sensitive teeth or gums. However, they may wear down more quickly compared to other types.
Hard Night Guards: Hard night guards, also known as acrylic night guards, are made of rigid, durable materials such as acrylic or copolyester. They provide strong protection against teeth grinding and clenching and are suitable for individuals with moderate to severe bruxism. Hard night guards can last longer than soft ones but may take some time to adjust to.
Dual Laminate Night Guards: Dual laminate night guards are a combination of soft and hard materials. They consist of a soft inner layer for comfort and a hard outer layer for durability. This type offers a balance between comfort and protection and is suitable for individuals with moderate bruxism.
Additional guard types
Boil-and-Bite Night Guards: Boil-and-bite night guards are available over the counter and can be fitted at home. They are made from thermoplastic material that softens when boiled. After softening, you bite into the material to create an impression of your teeth. While they offer a better fit compared to generic night guards, they may not be as precise as custom-fit ones. Boil-and-bite night guards are suitable for individuals with mild to moderate bruxism.
- One Size Fits All Night Guards: One size fits all night guards, also known as stock night guards, are pre-formed dental appliances that come in a standard size and shape. They are ready to use right out of the package without any adjustments or customization. These night guards are typically made of a soft, flexible material and are the most affordable option available. However, they may not provide the best fit and comfort compared to custom-fit or boil-and-bite options.
NTI Night Guards: NTI night guards are a specific type of dental appliance used for the treatment of bruxism. NTI stands for “Nociceptive Trigeminal Inhibition” and refers to the mechanism behind its design. NTI night guards are typically small, custom-fit devices that cover only the front teeth (incisors) and prevent the back teeth from touching. They work by limiting the intensity of muscle contractions and reducing the clenching forces during sleep.
NTI night guards are often recommended for individuals with severe bruxism, tension headaches, or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). They are prescribed by dentists and are custom-made based on dental impressions. NTI night guards are typically made of hard acrylic material and provide focused protection to the front teeth.
TMJ Specialist-Made Night Guards: Night guards made by TMJ specialists are custom-fit oral appliances specifically designed to address temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) symptoms. TMJ is a condition that affects the jaw joint and can cause pain, stiffness, clicking, and limited jaw movement.
TMJ specialists, such as oral surgeons or dentists with expertise in TMJ disorders, may recommend custom night guards as part of the treatment plan. These night guards are tailored to the individual’s jaw structure and specific TMJ condition. They aim to alleviate symptoms by promoting proper jaw alignment, reducing muscle tension, and providing cushioning and support to the TMJ area.
TMJ specialist-made night guards are typically made of durable materials and offer a high level of comfort and protection. They may have unique features like specialized bite ramps or adjustments to accommodate the patient’s specific TMJ needs.
It’s important to consult with a TMJ specialist who can evaluate your TMJ symptoms and determine if a custom night guard is appropriate for your specific case. They will take impressions of your teeth and create a personalized night guard that suits your jaw alignment and provides optimal relief for TMJ-related issues.
Choosing the Best Night Guard: Selecting the right night guard depends on your individual needs and the severity of your bruxism. Consider the following factors when choosing a night guard:
Comfort: Opt for a night guard that feels comfortable in your mouth, as you’ll be wearing it for several hours each night.
Protection: Choose a night guard that provides adequate protection based on the severity of your bruxism. Custom-fit or hard night guards offer the highest level of protection.
Durability: If you have severe bruxism or tend to grind your teeth forcefully, opt for a night guard that is more durable, such as hard or dual laminate guards.
Cost: Consider your budget when selecting a night guard. Custom-fit guards are typically more expensive than over-the-counter options, but they offer the best fit and durability.
Ease of Cleaning: Ensure the night guard is easy to clean and maintain to promote good oral hygiene. Some night guards require special cleaning solutions or tablets, so consider this aspect before making a choice.
Consult a Dentist: If you’re unsure about the severity of your bruxism or the most suitable night
All custom night guard types will serve to protect your teeth from the damages of direct tooth on tooth clenching and grinding. No matter which material you choose, your teeth are being protected by wearing a night guard consistently.
Custom Night Guard Types
Which night guard is best for teeth grinding?
The best night guard for teeth grinding depends on individual factors such as the severity of grinding, personal comfort preferences, and any specific dental conditions. However, one commonly recommended option is the custom-fit night guard.
Custom-Fit Night Guards: Custom-fit night guards are professionally made by dentists or dental laboratories. They are tailored to fit your mouth based on dental impressions. Custom-fit night guards offer the highest level of comfort, protection, and durability. They provide a precise fit that ensures optimal coverage and prevents tooth damage caused by grinding. These night guards are typically recommended for individuals with all levels of bruxism, especially for those with severe grinding habits.
While custom fit options are often considered most effective, it’s important to consult with a dentist or dental professional who can evaluate your specific needs and recommend the most appropriate night guard for your individual situation. They can assess factors such as the severity of grinding, jaw alignment, and any underlying dental conditions to ensure the best treatment outcome.
- Non-flexible, rigid
- Stays in place. Can help keep the teeth in position.
- Most commonly made with a copolyester material or acrylic
- Most commonly recommended for people that experience TMJ disorders
- Durable for heavier teeth grinders and clenchers
Hard night guards are known for their durability. They are mostly recommended for moderate to tough/heavy grinding habits.
Hard night guards are also generally prescribed for people suffering from TMJD over the soft night guard types.
Are soft or hard night guards better?
The choice between soft and hard night guards depends on individual factors and personal preferences. Both types of night guards have their own advantages and considerations:
Soft Night Guards: Soft night guards are typically made of a pliable material called thermoplastic. They offer a cushioning effect and are generally more comfortable to wear, particularly for individuals with sensitive teeth or gums. Soft night guards are suitable for mild to moderate teeth grinding or clenching. However, they may wear down more quickly compared to hard night guards, especially for those with severe grinding habits. If you have a tendency to chew on the night guard, a soft guard may not be as durable.
Hard Night Guards: Hard night guards, also known as hard acrylic or laminate night guards, are made of rigid, durable materials like acrylic. They provide strong protection against teeth grinding and clenching. Hard night guards are suitable for individuals with moderate to severe bruxism. They are more durable and resistant to wear and tear compared to soft night guards. However, some individuals may find hard night guards initially uncomfortable and may require an adjustment period to get used to the rigid material.
In general, if you have mild bruxism or have sensitivity concerns, a soft night guard may be a suitable choice. If you have moderate to severe bruxism or need a more durable option, a hard night guard may be more appropriate. However, it’s important to consult with a dentist or dental professional who can assess your specific needs and provide personalized recommendations based on the severity of your grinding, jaw alignment, and any other underlying dental conditions. They can help determine which type of night guard is best for you.
What is the difference between custom-fit and over-the-counter night guards?
The difference between custom-fit and over-the-counter (OTC) night guards lies in their design, fit, and fabrication process:
Custom-Fit Night Guards:
- Design: Custom-fit night guards are individually designed to fit your mouth precisely. They are created based on dental impressions or digital scans of your teeth.
- Professional Involvement: Custom-fit night guards are typically made by dentists or dental laboratories with expertise in creating dental appliances.
- Personalized Fit: They provide a tailored fit that conforms to your teeth and bite alignment, offering optimal comfort and protection.
- Material Quality: Custom-fit night guards are often made with higher-quality materials, such as medical-grade acrylic, ensuring durability and longevity.
- Specificity: Custom-fit night guards can address specific dental conditions or alignment issues, providing more comprehensive protection.
- Cost: They tend to be more expensive than OTC options due to the personalized design, professional involvement, and higher-quality materials.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Night Guards:
- Standardized Design: OTC night guards come in a standard, one-size-fits-all design or a boil-and-bite format.
- Self-Fitting: Boil-and-bite OTC night guards can be fitted at home by softening the material in hot water and then biting into it to create an impression of your teeth.
- Fit Variability: OTC night guards may not provide as precise or customized fit as custom-fit night guards. They might require adjustments or trimming to improve comfort and effectiveness.
- Material Quality: OTC night guards are typically made with softer, less durable materials compared to custom-fit options.
- Affordability: OTC night guards are generally more affordable than custom-fit ones.
- Availability: They are readily available in drugstores, online marketplaces, or dental supply stores.
While OTC night guards can offer some level of protection against teeth grinding, custom-fit night guards are often considered the superior choice. Custom-fit night guards provide a more accurate fit, enhanced comfort, better durability, and personalized adjustments to meet individual needs. They are recommended for individuals with moderate to severe bruxism or those seeking optimal comfort and long-term use. It’s advisable to consult with a dentist or dental professional to determine the most suitable night guard option for your specific requirements.
Do I need a night guard for mild bruxism?
Whether or not you need a night guard for mild bruxism depends on various factors, including the impact of your grinding habits on your oral health, the presence of any symptoms or discomfort, and the guidance of a dental professional. Here are some considerations:
Evaluation by a Dental Professional: It is recommended to consult with a dentist or dental professional who can assess the severity of your bruxism and evaluate its potential impact on your teeth, jaw, and overall oral health. They can examine your teeth for signs of wear, evaluate your bite, and discuss any symptoms you may be experiencing.
Symptoms and Discomfort: Even if your bruxism is mild, it is essential to pay attention to any symptoms or discomfort that may arise. Common signs of bruxism include headaches, jaw pain or stiffness, tooth sensitivity, and worn or damaged teeth. If you experience any of these symptoms, a night guard may be beneficial in alleviating them.
Preventive Measures: Using a night guard for mild bruxism can be considered as a preventive measure to protect your teeth from further damage. By providing a cushioning barrier between your upper and lower teeth, a night guard can help prevent tooth wear, fractures, and other dental issues associated with grinding.
Stress Management and Lifestyle Changes: Addressing the underlying causes of bruxism, such as stress or anxiety, can also be beneficial. Incorporating stress management techniques, relaxation exercises, and lifestyle changes may help reduce the frequency and intensity of teeth grinding.
Ultimately, the decision to use a night guard for mild bruxism should be made in consultation with a dental professional who can assess your specific situation and provide personalized recommendations. They can evaluate the severity of your bruxism, consider any associated symptoms or risks, and guide you on the most appropriate treatment or preventive measures for your individual needs.
Can I wear a night guard during the day?
While night guards are primarily designed to be worn during sleep to protect against teeth grinding and clenching, in certain situations, wearing a night guard during the day may be recommended. Here are a few scenarios where wearing a night guard during the day might be appropriate:
Daytime Bruxism: Some individuals experience bruxism not only during sleep but also during waking hours. If you grind or clench your teeth during the day, wearing a night guard can help provide protection and alleviate symptoms.
Teeth Clenching or Grinding Due to Stress: Stress and anxiety can cause individuals to clench or grind their teeth throughout the day. Wearing a night guard during stressful periods can help reduce the impact on your teeth and jaw muscles.
TMJ Disorder: Individuals with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) may benefit from wearing a night guard during the day to provide support and help alleviate symptoms such as jaw pain, clicking, or popping.
However, it is important to consult with a dentist or dental professional before using a night guard during the day. They can assess your specific needs, evaluate your oral health, and provide guidance on whether daytime use of a night guard is appropriate for your situation. They may also recommend specific modifications or a different type of appliance designed for daytime wear, such as a bite splint or an occlusal guard, which serve a similar purpose to a night guard but are specifically tailored for daytime use.
Are boil-and-bite night guards effective?
Boil-and-bite night guards can be effective for many individuals, especially those with mild to moderate teeth grinding or clenching. They offer several benefits, such as customization and affordability. However, there are some limitations to consider:
Fit Variability: While boil-and-bite night guards can be molded to fit the teeth, the level of fit and comfort may vary from person to person. Achieving an optimal fit can be challenging, and some individuals may find it difficult to mold the guard precisely to their teeth, leading to potential discomfort or an imperfect fit.
Material Durability: Boil-and-bite night guards are typically made from thermoplastic materials, which are softer compared to the materials used in custom-fit night guards. This softer material may wear down more quickly, especially for individuals with more severe grinding habits, requiring more frequent replacement.
Limited Treatment Capabilities: Boil-and-bite night guards are generally suitable for individuals with mild to moderate teeth grinding or clenching. If you have severe bruxism or specific dental conditions such as TMJ disorder, a custom-fit night guard made by a dental professional may provide better protection and comfort.
While boil-and-bite night guards can be effective and provide a reasonable level of protection for many individuals, it’s important to recognize their limitations. If you have concerns about your teeth grinding or clenching habits, it is advisable to consult with a dentist or dental professional. They can evaluate your specific needs, assess the severity of your condition, and recommend the most appropriate type of night guard or treatment option for your situation.Recently, we added an option that enables you to choose your thickness. You can choose between 1mm (for light bruxism), 2mm (moderate bruxism), or 3mm (heavy bruxism).
The soft night guard is effective at preventing jaw pain, soreness, teeth damage, and headaches. It is said by dental professionals that these soft types do not typically last as long as the hard night guard or the dual laminated guard. Most companies end their warranty at about 6 months of use if they offer a warranty at all. However, we’ll let you in on a little secret.
These soft types can last quite a long time. It really just depends on your grinding habits. If you’re a light-to-medium grinder, this may be the perfect solution for you. Make sure to keep yours very clean (daily cleaning) and dry and store it in its original retainer case.
How do I clean and maintain my night guard?
Cleaning and maintaining your night guard is crucial to ensure its longevity, hygiene, and effectiveness. Here are some general tips on how to clean and care for your night guard:
Rinse After Use: After wearing your night guard, rinse it with cool or lukewarm water to remove any saliva or debris.
Brush Gently: Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and non-abrasive toothpaste or mild soap to brush your night guard. This helps remove any bacteria or plaque buildup. Avoid using toothpaste with harsh abrasives that can scratch the night guard’s surface.
Avoid Hot Water: Hot water can distort or damage the night guard’s shape. Stick to cool or lukewarm water when rinsing or cleaning your night guard.
Soak in Denture Cleaner: Periodically, you can soak your night guard in a denture cleaner or an effervescent dental appliance cleaner. Follow the product instructions for dilution and soak time. This helps to disinfect and remove stains.
Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Harsh chemicals, such as bleach or alcohol-based solutions, can damage the night guard’s material. Stick to mild cleaners specifically formulated for dental appliances.
Store Properly: Store your night guard in a clean, dry case when not in use. This protects it from damage and prevents dust or bacteria from accumulating.
Keep Away from Heat: Avoid exposing your night guard to excessive heat, such as hot water, direct sunlight, or hot surfaces. Heat can distort the shape of the night guard.
Regularly Inspect: Periodically inspect your night guard for any signs of wear, cracks, or damage. If you notice any issues, consult your dentist for necessary repairs or replacement.
Avoid Chewing: Do not chew on your night guard, as it can lead to premature wear and reduce its lifespan.
Follow Dentist’s Instructions: Follow any specific cleaning and maintenance instructions provided by your dentist or dental professional based on the type of night guard you have.
How do I choose the right night guard type for me?
Choosing the right night guard type for your needs involves considering several factors. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you make an informed decision:
- Consult with a Dental Professional: Start by scheduling an appointment with a dentist or dental professional who can assess your specific situation. They will evaluate the severity of your teeth grinding or clenching, examine your teeth and oral health, and consider any related symptoms or concerns.
- Discuss Your Symptoms and Needs: Communicate any symptoms you experience, such as jaw pain, headaches, tooth sensitivity, or worn teeth. Describe your grinding or clenching habits, including when it occurs and its impact on your daily life. This information will help the dental professional understand your specific needs.
- Consider the Severity of Bruxism: The severity of your bruxism will influence the type of night guard recommended. Mild to moderate cases may be suitable for over-the-counter options or boil-and-bite night guards, while severe bruxism may require a custom-fit night guard for optimal protection.
- Evaluate Comfort and Fit: Comfort and fit are crucial for effective night guard use. Custom-fit night guards made by dental professionals tend to provide the best fit, as they are tailored to your unique dental anatomy. However, if custom options are not accessible or if your grinding is mild, over-the-counter or boil-and-bite night guards can be considered. Ensure the night guard is comfortable to wear and does not cause excessive pressure or pain.
- Consider Material and Design: Night guards can be made from different materials, such as acrylic or thermoplastic. Discuss with your dental professional which material would best suit your needs based on factors like durability, flexibility, and your personal preference. Consider the design, such as full-coverage guards or more streamlined options like NTI or TMJ specialist-made guards, based on your dentist’s recommendations.
- Budget Considerations: Consider your budget when selecting a night guard. Custom-fit night guards tend to be more expensive than over-the-counter or boil-and-bite options. However, keep in mind that custom-fit night guards often offer a higher level of comfort, durability, and effectiveness.
- Follow Professional Recommendations: Your dental professional will provide specific recommendations based on their evaluation. Follow their guidance regarding the type of night guard, fitting process, maintenance, and any additional treatment options if necessary.
By discussing your needs, symptoms, and preferences with a dental professional, you can make an informed decision about the right night guard type for you. They will consider your specific situation and provide personalized recommendations to ensure you choose the most suitable option for your bruxism and oral health.
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