Frequently Asked Questions About Dental Night Guards

Ever woken up with a sore jaw or a headache and wondered, “What on earth did I do in my sleep?” 

You’re not alone. 

Enter the hero of our nocturnal tales: the dental night guard

These small but sturdy devices are basically like bodyguards but for your pearly whites. 

They swoop in, shield your teeth, and make sure they don’t wage wars against each other while you’re dreaming of beaches and ice cream!

What are Dental Night Guards?

Dental night guards are protective devices that provide a barrier between your upper and lower teeth. They act as a superhero suit for your teeth, protecting them from the nightly grind – literally! 

Night guards are often used to protect against damage caused by bruxism, the scientific term for grinding or clenching your teeth in your sleep, which a lot of us do without even realizing it. They create a protective barrier between your top and bottom teeth, which helps to absorb the force from the grinding and clenching.

Night guards are typically custom-made by your dentist from a mold of your teeth to ensure a comfortable fit.

What Materials are Night Guards Made From?

Night guards are usually made from one of three main material types:

Acrylic

A durable plastic material often found in traditional dentures. Acrylic night guards last longer because they can withstand continuous wear and tear.

Soft Material

These night guards are made from a soft, pliable plastic. They can be more comfortable to wear than acrylic ones but don’t always last as long because the material isn’t as tough. If comfort is your top priority, soft material night guards are the ideal choice.

Composite

A mix between acrylic and a softer material. Composite night guards allow you to enjoy the best of both worlds: durability from the acrylic and comfort from the softer material.

What are the 3 Types of Night Guards?

Night guards fall into three categories: soft, dual-laminate, and hard.

  1. Soft Night Guards: Your go-to choice for comfort. Made from soft, flexible material, soft night guards fit snugly and comfortably in your mouth. They’re perfect if you have mild teeth grinding or are just getting used to wearing a night guard.

     

  2. Dual-Laminate Night Guards: Your ‘best of both worlds’ option. On the outside, you have a harder, more durable material that can withstand severe grinding. Inside, though, it’s all about comfort with a softer layer that rests against your teeth.

     

  3. Hard Night Guards: If your teeth grinding is no joke, these are Your heavy-duty options for serious tooth grinding. They’re made from a hard, durable material (like acrylic) that can really stand up to even the most intense grinding. The trade-off is that they might not be as comfy as the other options, but they’ll really protect your teeth.

 

Will I Need a Night Guard for Both the Upper and the Lower Jaw?

Typically, a night guard is made for only one set of teeth — either your upper or your lower. 

Most patients will wear a night guard on their upper teeth since it’s more comfortable and doesn’t interfere as much with your tongue. Plus, it’s easier to talk with a guard only on the upper teeth.

In some cases, especially if you have a dental appliance or braces on your upper teeth, your orthodontist may recommend a night guard for the lower teeth instead. It’s really a case-by-case choice, heavily depending on your individual needs.

In very rare cases, your dentist might suggest guards for both upper and lower teeth.

Will I Have to Wear My Night Guard Every Night?

If your orthodontist has recommended a night guard, it’s usually best to wear it every night. 

Tooth grinding occurs every night, even if you aren’t conscious of it. Consistent use of a night guard helps to protect your teeth from the damage caused by grinding or clenching.

It’s not the end of the world if you occasionally forget to wear your night guard, but making a habit of it could potentially undo any protection the guard offers your teeth and jaw. 

It’s just like wearing a seatbelt in the car — you wouldn’t only buckle up sometimes, right?

What Dental Issues Do Dental Night Guards Address?

Night guards are used to address several dental issues that can make your life a bit of a bother, such as:

 

  1. Teeth Grinding and Clenching (Bruxism): Night guards are most commonly used to protect your teeth from the effects of grinding and clenching, which typically occurs while sleeping. Constant grinding can wear down your teeth without a guard, leading to sensitivity and other dental issues.
  2. Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD): Dental night guards can reduce the pressure on the jaw joint, helping to alleviate symptoms like pain, headaches, and even clicking or popping sounds when you open or close your mouth!
  3. Sleep Apnea: Some types of night guards can help with certain forms of sleep apnea, a condition that causes you to stop breathing briefly during sleep. These guards work by repositioning the lower jaw and tongue, helping to keep your airway open.
  4. Preventing Damage to Dental Work: A night guard can help protect crowns, bridges, and veneers from damage caused by clenching or grinding.

Do Night Guards Address Bruxism?

While night guards do spare your teeth from the symptoms of bruxism, they do not stop the behavior itself.

When it comes to bruxism, night guards act as a protective layer between your upper and lower teeth. With the night guard in place, instead of your teeth getting worn down or damaged, they meet a soft or hard plastic barrier.

By using a night guard, you’re protecting your teeth from damage, which could save you a lot of hassle (and dental work) down the line. These guards also reduce the strain on your jaw muscles and joints, which can help alleviate some of the symptoms of bruxism like headaches, jaw pain, and even tooth sensitivity.

You will need to explore other treatments or lifestyle changes, such as stress management, changes in diet or medication, even physiotherapy, to stop the grinding behavior altogether.

Do Night Guards Address Tongue Thrusting?

Night guards may ameliorate symptoms of tongue thrusting, although they’re not designed for this purpose.

Tongue thrusting occurs when your tongue pushes against your teeth, often when you’re swallowing, speaking, or at rest. It’s like your tongue is trying to escape from your mouth, but all it ends up doing is potentially moving your teeth out of alignment. Kids often exhibit this dental issue, but adults can, too, especially if it’s a habit they’ve never grown out of.

Night guards can create a physical barrier that might discourage the tongue from pushing against the teeth, but they’re not really designed to deal specifically with tongue thrusting.

Some patients find that wearing a night guard makes them more aware of what their tongue is up to, helping them consciously change their behavior over time. 

However, if tongue thrusting is causing significant issues, such as misalignments or speech disorders, you need a more targeted treatment.

How Long Do Night Guards Last?

The longevity of your night guards depends on several factors:

 

  • Material: For starters, it’s about the material of the guard. Sturdier materials like hard acrylic can hold up for up to 5 years or more. Soft night guards, however, tend to last for a shorter treatment period, usually around 6 months to a year. Dual-laminate guards sit right in the middle, often lasting 1-2 years.
  • Proper Care: The longevity of your night guard also depends on how you take care of it. Properly cleaning and storing your night guard in a cool, dry place will help it last longer.
  • Severity of Tooth Grinding: If you’re a heavy grinder, you’re going to wear your night guard out faster.
  • Bite Changes: Even if your night guard is physically holding up, you might need a new one if your teeth move or if your bite changes.

How Often Should I Change My Night Guard?

There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how often you should be swapping out your night guard. It comes down to the type of guard you have, the severity of your grinding and clenching, and how well you’re taking care of it.

As a general guideline: 

  • Softer night guards usually need to be replaced every 6 to 9 months. 
  • Harder night guards last for several years. 
  • Dual-laminate night guards clock in somewhere in the middle, around 1-2 years.

If your night guard isn’t fitting properly anymore or it’s getting really thin or cracked, it’s probably time to say goodbye. 

If your teeth or bite change, you might need a new one even if your current guard still looks like it’s in prime shape.

How Should I Clean My Dental Night Guard?

Cleaning your dental night guard is straightforward as long as you follow a well-established routine:

 

  1. Clean your night guard every morning when you wake up, since it has been collecting bacteria and plaque all night.

    Give your night guard a good rinse under cool or lukewarm water. Stay away from hot water, though, because it could warp your guard.

    Give your night guard a proper scrub with a special toothbrush. Use an antibacterial soap, a non-abrasive toothpaste, or a baking soda and water paste. But remember, be gentle — no need to go all out as if you’re scrubbing a stubborn stain off your favorite shirt.

    At least once a week, you should give your night guard a deeper clean. Consider a special night guard cleaner, a denture cleaning solution, or even just soaking it in a mixture of mouthwash and water.

     

  2. Let your night guard dry completely: Wet environments are like a party for bacteria, so give it a chance to air dry (for example, on a towel).

Where Should I Store My Night Guard?

The best place to store your night guard is in a dedicated, ventilated case.

Why ventilated, you ask? Because a ventilated case allows your night guard to dry out properly, which is important for preventing bacterial buildup.

Keep the case in a safe, clean area, away from pets or any potential hazards. 

How Much Do Dental Night Guards Cost?

The price of a dental night guard can vary pretty widely depending on various factors.

First, you’ve got your basic, one-size-fits-all night guards you can snag at a drugstore or online. These are like budget cars — they get the job done, but they might not be the most comfortable or long-lasting. They sell for $10 to $50.

Next, you have your boil-and-bite options. They’re a step up because you can customize them a bit to fit your mouth. Think of them like your mid-range sedans — not fancy, but more comfortable and a better fit than budget options. These can set you back anywhere from $50 to $200.

Finally, you’ve got your custom-made night guards from your orthodontist. These are your luxury cars — made to fit perfectly, highly comfortable, and designed to last. These are definitely more of an investment and can cost anywhere from $300 to $800, or even more, depending on your location and your specific needs.

Are Night Guards Covered by Insurance?

The coverage of dental night guards depends on your insurance plan. 

Certain plans totally cover most or even all the costs related to night guards, seeing it as preventive care to save on more significant dental issues down the line.

However, other insurance companies may categorize night guards as a cosmetic or elective treatment and hence may not foot any of the bill.