Protecting Your Teeth with Night Guards - Types, Uses & Costs

Clinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
Last Modified:

Table of Contents

  1. What Is a Night Guard?
  2. Why Do People Use Them? - Bruxism & Sleep Apnea
  3. Types of Night Guards
  4. Costs
  5. Do They Affect Sleep?

Practicing proper oral hygiene every day, including flossing and brushing your teeth, is the most effective way to preserve your dental health. But some people need to wear a nightguard to protect their teeth when sleeping.

You may consider using one of these oral appliances if you grind your teeth or have sleep apnea. There is a broad range of options, and the breadth of the selection can be confusing and overwhelming.

If you need help selecting the right type of night guard for you, talk to your dentist or orthodontist about it. Meanwhile, here’s a look at the different types of night guards available today and how wearing one can prevent damage to your teeth.

What Is a Night Guard?

A night guard is an oral appliance worn at night to prevent dental wear and tear due to tooth grinding and jaw clenching. The device is made of plastic or acrylic, and it’s generally safe to wear inside the mouth.

For maximum effectiveness, consider having your mouthpiece custom-built to get a natural fit around your teeth.

Why Do People Use Night Guards?

People wear night guards as part of a treatment regimen for specific dental or sleep issues. Your dentist may recommend the oral appliance if you have sleep-related conditions such as:

Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

Dentists often prescribe night guards to patients who grind their teeth when asleep or have sleep bruxism — a common cause of cracked teeth.

This sleep disorder occurs involuntarily and subconsciously, which is why you may not realize you have it until your next dental checkup. Signs that you grind your teeth at night include:

  • Unexplained cracked teeth (in some patients, teeth grinding can have an impact six times as high as that of normal chewing)

  • The unpleasant tooth grinding sounds may interrupt your bed partner’s sleep (you won’t be aware of the disturbing noise as it only happens when you’re asleep)

  • Consistent morning headaches

  • Multiple prolonged breath interruptions during sleep (obstructive sleep apnea)

  • Jaw discomfort in the morning

It may be time you visited a dentist if you experience any of these sleep-related issues on a regular basis. Also, you may want to ask your partner if any grinding sounds ever interrupt their sleep.

Up to 17 percent of children and less than 10 percent of adults have nighttime bruxism. The condition causes them to experience at least four jaw muscle contractions every hour of slumber.

This irregular pattern explains the jaw muscle pain that some patients have in the morning.

Wearing a custom-made nightguard can solve this problem, letting you sleep better by reducing the frequency of bruxing episodes. Less dental grinding means less cracking of your teeth due to bruxism.

The device can also reduce the noise from tooth grinding, allowing your partner to have a quality night’s rest.

Contrary to popular belief, these oral appliances don’t stop or prevent bruxism. The condition has several possible underlying causes like anxiety or stress, which should also be addressed.

If you have these mental conditions along with teeth grinding, your dentist may recommend psychotherapy to increase the chances of treatment success. Muscle relaxation techniques can also speed up your recovery from bruxism.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your breath is interrupted multiple times during sleep. During each episode, you experience a complete or partial airway blockage.

The ensuing oxygen deprivation in vital organs of the body, including the heart and brain, is extremely dangerous.

If you have sleep apnea, you may want to involve your primary care physician in managing the condition. They might recommend putting on a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device to reduce the frequency of breath interruption during sleep.

A special dental guard can also treat mild or moderate obstructive sleep apnea. This alternative treatment might be worth considering if you find a CPAP mask too uncomfortable at night.

Each time you wear a custom-fit mouthpiece for sleep apnea, it secures your lower jaw into a forward posture. This positioning prevents the repetitive closure of your upper airway when you’re sleeping.   

Your doctor will write a prescription for a custom-made oral appliance if they determine it’s the best therapy for you. You’ll then be referred to a dentist with expertise and experience in this area of dental care.

Types of Night Guards

There are two main ways to categorize night guards. These are:

  • How and where they’re made

  • Their physical attributes

How Night Guards are Made

You can order these solutions online or purchase them at a local pharmacy or retail store. Stock dental appliances are the cheapest and least effective.

Generally, it’s difficult to find a perfectly fitting ready-made night guard to treat apnea or bruxism.

These are also inexpensive oral appliances that you can buy off-the-shelf in most drugstores. Unlike ready-made options, boil-and-bite dental guards can be customized at home to fit your teeth.

Follow these steps to customize your boil-and-bite dental guard:

  • Boil the appliance to make it soft and malleable

  • Once soft, put it in your mouth and bite down on it

  • Press the mold with your tongue and fingers to create a snug fit around your teeth

Your dentist will create a custom-fit night guard for you in the laboratory. While this is the most expensive type of mouth guard, it’s also highly effective.

The final design is an outcome of extensive patient-dentist consultations and is based on your actual dental impressions.

Physical Properties of Different Night Guard Types

These types of dental devices are made of soft resin. Some professionals observe that the night guards are more difficult to adapt to the user’s teeth.

These mouth guards are usually made from sturdy acrylic-resin. They’re believed to be more effective in reducing the frequency of nighttime teeth grinding in most patients.

They’re easier to adjust compared with soft-resin dental guards.

The technical term for these night guards is bilaminar or dual laminate. Unlike soft and hard options, this variety features a softer interior and harder exterior layer.

Their key attributes include:

  • They’re highly effective against bruxism

  • They’re highly adaptable and easy to fit

  • They’re cost-effective to design and manufacture

How Much Do Night Guards Cost?

Nightguards vary in cost based on factors like type, effectiveness, and adaptability. Custom-made varieties are the most expensive.

It isn’t surprising that you could pay up to $2,000 for a customized sleep apnea dental guard. That would be a prescription treatment with multiple costs to consider, including:

  • The medical mouthpiece itself

  • Various trips to the dental clinic

  • Consultation with your dentist’s office

  • Fitting and adjustments

  • Follow-up therapy

  • Dental guard modification

Your Medicare coverage or health plan with a private insurer can pay part of the dental treatment cost.

At the low end of the price range are off-the-shelf night guards. For example, some Dentek boil-and-bite bruxism mouth guards cost under $20 at major online retailers.

How Does Wearing a Night Guard Affect Your Sleep?

A well-fitting prescription night guard can improve your sleep quality. It doesn’t usually cause problems in people with obstructive apnea or bruxism.

In one study, bruxism patients who wore these therapeutic mouthpieces enjoyed longer durations of deep, restorative sleep.

It’s important to note that wearing a nightguard alone won’t solve problems arising out of poor sleep hygiene, stress, or many other causes. For patients with bruxism, apnea, and other underlying complications, a holistic treatment plan is often necessary.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.