Frequently Asked Questions About Dental Night Guards

Do you ever wake up with a sore jaw or headache, wondering what you did during your sleep?

It’s not just you.

Introducing our nocturnal hero: the dental night guard!

A pearly white bodyguard, these devices are small but sturdy.

While you’re dreaming about ice cream and beaches, they swoop in, shield your teeth, and keep them from fighting!

What are Dental Night Guards?

As a superhero suit for your teeth, dental night guards act as a barrier between your upper and lower teeth, preventing the nightly grind from damaging them. 

We often wear night guards to protect our teeth against damage caused by bruxism, a condition where we grind or clench our teeth at night without realizing it. These barriers protect your top and bottom teeth from grinding and clenching, which helps absorb the force.

Your orthodontist typically makes night guards from a mold of your teeth to ensure a comfortable fit.

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What Materials are Night Guards Made From?

There are three main types of materials used to make night guards:

  1. Acrylic: Traditional dentures are often made of durable plastic acrylic. Acrylic night guards last longer because they can withstand wear and tear continuously.
  2. Soft Material: If comfort is your top priority, soft material night guards are your best choice. They can be more comfortable to wear than acrylic ones but don’t always last as long.
  3. Composite: The best of two worlds: acrylic durability and softer materials’ comfort. Composite night guards combine the best of both worlds.
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What are the 3 Types of Night Guards?

There are three main types of night guards: soft, dual-laminate, and hard.

  1. Soft Night Guards: Designed with soft, flexible material, soft night guards fit snugly and comfortably in your mouth. Perfect for mild teeth grinding or if you’re just getting used to wearing a night guard.
  2. Dual-Laminate Night Guards: The best of both worlds. On the outside, you get a more durable material that can withstand severe grinding, while on the inside, you get a softer layer for added comfort.
  3. Hard Night Guards: These are your heavy-duty tooth-grinding options. They’re made from a hard, durable material (like acrylic) that can stand up to even the most intense grinding.

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

It is common for a night guard to be made for only one set of teeth – either your upper or lower set. 

Most patients wear a night guard only on their upper teeth since it is more comfortable, does not interfere with their tongue, and is easier to talk with.

You may be required to wear a night guard for the lower teeth if you have orthodontic appliances or braces on your upper teeth. It’s a case-by-case decision, heavily dependent on your circumstances.

In rare cases, your orthodontist may recommend guards for both upper and lower teeth.

Will I Have to Wear My Night Guard Every Night?

Wear your night guard every night if your orthodontist recommends it. 

Using a night guard can reduce the damage to your teeth caused by grinding or clenching at night, even if you aren’t aware of it.

When you forget to wear your night guard occasionally, it won’t be a problem, but if you make it a habit, it may undo the protection it offers. 

It’s like wearing a seatbelt in a car — you wouldn’t buckle up only occasionally, would you?

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What Dental Issues Do Dental Night Guards Address?

In addition to addressing several dental issues, night guards are also used to treat:

  1. Teeth Grinding and Clenching (Bruxism): Typically, night guards are used to protect your teeth from grinding and clenching while you sleep. Continuous grinding can wear down your teeth without a guard, leading to sensitivity.

  2. Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD): Even when you open or close your mouth, dental night guards can help relieve symptoms like pain, headaches, and clicking or popping sounds.

  3. Sleep Apnea: There is evidence that night guards can help with sleep apnea, which causes you to stop breathing briefly during sleep. These guards reposition the lower jaw and tongue, keeping your airway open.

  4. Preventing Damage to Dental Work: Using a night guard can help prevent crowns, bridges, and veneers from being damaged by grinding or clenching at night.

Do Night Guards Address Bruxism?

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

In bruxism, night guards act as a protective layer between your upper and lower teeth. Instead of your teeth being worn down or damaged, they encounter a soft or hard plastic layer.

Wearing a night guard protects your teeth from damage, saving you a lot of hassle (and dental work) later on. Furthermore, these guards help relieve headaches, jaw pain, and tooth sensitivity caused by bruxism by reducing the strain on your jaw muscles and joints.

If you want to stop the grinding behavior altogether, you may need to explore other treatments or lifestyle changes, such as stress management, dietary changes, or medication.

Do Night Guards Address Tongue Thrusting?

Despite not being designed for this purpose, night guards may ease symptoms of tongue thrusting.

A tongue thrust occurs when your tongue pushes against your teeth, usually while swallowing, speaking, or resting. It’s as if your tongue is trying to escape from your mouth, but it moves your teeth out of alignment. This dental issue is common in children, but it can occur in adults, too, especially if it’s a habit they’ve always had.

While night guards can provide a physical barrier to discourage tongue thrusting, they are not specifically designed to deal with it.

Patients find that wearing a night guard helps them become more aware of what their tongue is doing, enabling them to consciously change their behavior. 

When tongue thrusting causes significant issues, such as misalignments or speech disorders, you need more targeted treatment.

How Long Do Night Guards Last?

Several factors affect the longevity of your night guards:

  • Material: Durable materials such as hard acrylic can last over five years. Softer materials, however, tend to last for a shorter period, usually between six and twelve months. Dual-laminate guards, on the other hand, typically last 1 to 2 years.

  • Proper Care: Properly cleaning and storing your night guard in a cool, dry place will extend its lifespan.

  • Severity of Tooth Grinding: Night guards will wear out faster if you grind heavily.

  • Bite Changes: You might need a new night guard if your teeth move or your bite changes, even if your night guard is physically intact.

How Often Should I Change My Night Guard?

The frequency with which you should replace your night guard depends on the type of guard you have, the severity of your grinding and clenching, and the care you give it.

As a general guideline: 

  • A soft night guard should be replaced every 6 to 9 months. 
  • Night guards that are harder last for a more extended period, a few several years.
  • Dual-laminate night guards have an average lifespan of 1-2 years.

The night guard may need to be replaced if it doesn’t fit properly or is worn out or cracked.

Even if your current guard still looks in good condition, you may need to replace it if your bite or teeth change.

How Should I Clean My Dental Night Guard?

As long as you follow a well-established routine, cleaning your dental night guard is simple:

  1. Since your night guard has collected bacteria and plaque all night, you should clean it when you wake up every morning. Rinse your night guard under cool or lukewarm water. Stay away from hot water, though, as it could warp it. Scrub your night guard thoroughly with a special toothbrush. Brush with antibacterial soap, non-abrasive toothpaste, baking soda, and water paste.
  2. You don’t need to scrub as hard as if you’re scrubbing stubborn stains off your favorite shirt.You should clean your night guard at least once a week. You can use a special denture cleaning solution or simply soak it in mouthwash and water.
  3. Wet environments are a haven for bacteria, so allow your night guard to air dry (for example, on a towel).
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    Where Should I Store My Night Guard?

    Night guards should be stored in ventilated cases.

    A ventilated case allows your night guard to dry out properly and prevent bacterial growth.

    Ensure the case is kept in a safe, clean area, away from pets and potential hazards.

    How Much Do Dental Night Guards Cost?

    Various factors can affect the price of a dental night guard.

    Firstly, you can find your basic, one-size-fits-all night guards at any drugstore or online. These aren’t as comfortable or long-lasting as more premium options. They sell for $10 to $50.

    You then have your boil-and-bite options. These are a step up because you can customize them to fit your mouth. Think of them as mid-range sedans – not fancy, but more comfortable and a better fit than budget options.

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

    Does Insurance Cover Night Guards?

    Your insurance plan may cover dental night guards.

    Most dental insurance plans cover most, if not all, of the costs associated with night guards, seeing them as a preventive measure to prevent more serious dental problems in the future.

    Some insurance companies, however, may not cover the costs of night guards as they may consider them cosmetic or elective.

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