Night Guard Pros & Cons: Everything You Should Know Before You Buy
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Table of Contents
- What is a Night Guard?
- What are the Pros?
- What are the Cons?
- What to Look For When Buying
What is a night guard?
Night guards are plastic pieces that go over the top or bottom set of teeth. They look almost like retainers.
Other names for night guards include mouthguards or bite guards. Less commonly, they may be referred to as occlusal guards, bite splits, or bite plates.
Night guards are used to protect against the effects of bruxism, or teeth grinding. They provide a cushioned barrier and prevent the teeth from grinding together.
They are also used to protect the mouth during contact sports like soccer or football, or during activities with a high risk of fall, like skating or gymnastics.
What are the pros of using a night guard?
For contact and high-risk sports, the biggest pro of a night guard is that they are designed to protect teeth and prevent dental accidents, which can be painful, expensive, and leave long-lasting damage.
The greatest benefit of using a night guard for bruxism is that the device prevents teeth grinding during sleep and therefore reduces or eliminates the many problems associated with tooth grinding, including these:
- Jaw problems, such as tightness in jaw or a locked jaw feeling
- Fractured, loosened, or chipped teeth
- Sleep disruption
- Neck and face pain
- Inner cheek damage
- Increased tooth pain and sensitivity
- Wearing away at tooth enamel, weakening teeth and increasing risk of tooth decay and gum problems
Other pros of using a night guard include the following:
- They’re easily removable, which makes them convenient.
- Many night guards are relatively affordable.
- They can be customized to the teeth for a comfortable fit.
- Some dental insurance plans cover a fitted mouth guard device.
What are the cons of using a night guard?
For night guards designed to protect against sports injuries, one possible con would be the user wearing an ill-fitting night guard that may not provide proper protection due to a loose fit. With continuous use, an incorrectly fit night guard could create bite problems and discomfort.
Night guards used to treat teeth grinding also have some risks. In fact, some experts worry that night guards, particularly over-the counter night guards, may make the symptoms of bruxism worse, as clenching or grinding on a wrongly fitting piece of plastic may irritate gums and cause more inflammation.
There is some research that supports these concerns.1 This makes it all the more important to discuss the possibility of using a night guard with your dentist before purchasing.
One of the most significant cons of night guards may be that they don’t treat the root of the problem. Many experts see tooth grinding as a behavioral problem rather than a dental or sleep problem. While a safe and fitted night guard may prevent tooth injury or wear in the short term, treating the actual cause of the problem may provide the most effective solution.
Possible causes of teeth grinding, or bruxism, include the following:
- Certain personality types
- Imbalance in brain transmitters
- Nervousness or worry
- Certain medications
- Caffeine or stimulant use
What to look for when buying a night guard
Night guards are generally available in four fits:
- Custom: This type of mouthguard is customized for you based on an impression of your teeth.
- Boil and bite: These mouthguards are made from thermoplastic. The guard is softened in hot water and then placed in the mouth and pressed down on to shape the bite.
- Adjustable: Over-the-counter mouthguards that can adjust to fit teeth with sliding pieces.
- Stock: These ready-to-wear mouthguards are designed as “one size fits most.”
When buying a night guard for sports or high-risk activities, it’s important to find one that fits comfortably and provides full protection. Rather than buying a one-size-fits-all night guard, consider meeting with a dental professional or choosing a provider that will create a custom piece based on an impression of your teeth.
The safest option for choosing a night guard to treat your teeth grinding is to meet with your dentist, so one can be molded to optimally fit your teeth. This ensures your teeth and mouth won’t be irritated by an ill-fitting device. Your dentist can also help in deciding whether a night guard is the best option for you.
How Night Guards Help with Teeth Grinding. (February 2022). Colgate. Date fetched: August 21, 2022.
Bruxism (Teeth Grinding). (August 2017). Mayo Clinic. Date fetched: August 21, 2022.
Mouthguards. (October 2020). Cleveland Clinic. Date fetched: August 21, 2022.
Grind Your Teeth? Your Night Guard May Not Be the Right Fix. (February 2021). The New York Times. Date fetched: August 23, 2022.
We Tried to Find the Best Mouth Guard for Teeth Grinding. We Bit Off More Than We Could Chew. (March 2021). Wirecutter, The New York Times. Date fetched: August 23, 2022.
Bruxism. John Hopkins University. Date fetched: August 23, 2022.
1 Controlled Assessment of the Efficacy of Occlusal Stabilization Splints on Sleep Bruxism. (Spring 2005). Journal of Orofacial Pain. Date fetched: August 23, 2022.