Common Questions About Dental Mouth Guards

One of the most common treatment methods for bruxism, or teeth grinding and clenching, is the use of a mouth guard. A mouth guard, or night guard, is a device that is placed in the mouth, generally at night, in order to stop the teeth from grinding or clenching together. Grinding is the act of actually moving the jaw back and forth and clenching is biting down with pressure for an extended period of time.

Though a mouth guard will not cure bruxism, it will help to alleviate the damage that is being caused by your grinding. Each time you grind, your teeth are losing their protective outer layer known as enamel. When this enamel is gone, it cannot be replaced and this opens the door for a lot of damage like cavities. Additionally, your teeth could loosen and crack, you could be doing damage to your cheeks and even your jaw. A good mouth guard, however, will keep your jaw in place and stop your teeth from moving against each other. Though you can buy cheap, flimsy mouth guards in stores, something is better than nothing, after all,  you will find the best options will come from a dentist or lab.


Q: What Types of Mouth Guards are Available?

There are two main types of mouth guards that are available for sufferers of bruxism: off the counter guards that you can buy in stores or online, and custom mouth guards that you get from the dentist or lab. Both types of guards will help to stop the action of grinding but in many cases, a custom mouth guard will be far superior. Though it is understandable you may not want to spend a lot of money on a guard for your teeth, higher quality guards are certainly recommended by the experts. Off the counter guards are bulky, move around as there may be no teeth marks and can make breathing more difficult. Your best choice with off the counter guards is to buy one made of thermoplastic, which can be heated and shaped to the teeth. Unfortunately this type of plastic doesn’t last long and people even grind right through them.


Q: How Should a Mouth Guard Fit?

A night guard should be comfortable and mold to your teeth for best results. They should also keep your teeth in place throughout the time you wear them. As long as a mouth guard fits well, it should not be bad for your teeth. Ill-fitting guards can be, however, which is another reason to get a custom made guard. Some people will also wear their night guards during the day, so again, comfort is paramount.


Q: What are Mouth Guards Made Of?

Most mouth guards are BPA free and made of a variety of materials including vinyl, acetate, rubber, acrylic or even chemicals like chromium cobalt. The better guards on the market are made of materials like ethyl vinyl acetate which is a laminate that will give you an outstanding fit. Though some of these can be fit to your mouth at home, you will still need to buy a kit with the materials needed. You cannot effectively make your own.


Q: How Can I Get a Good Fit With a Boil and Bite Mouth Guard?

Many people will choose off counter guards until they see they don’t last a long time, but you can certainly give them a try. The tricky part is to fit the guard correctly, though it is a very simple process to do. In almost all cases, you will simply place the thermoplastic into a pot of boiling water for a few seconds. Bring it out, put it in your mouth around your teeth and suck in tight. Ideally the guard will mold to your teeth. You can soften these guards several times before they get too weak if you need to try again.


Q: What is the Best Night Guard?

The best guards are those that come from the dentist or from a lab. Some of the well known brand names are, All of these guards are great for night use, are tough so you won’t bite through them and more affordable than getting the guard from your dentist.



Custom Night Guards

Q: Where Can I Get a Custom Night Guard?

You can get a custom night guard from your dentist, or contact a lab online for a mail order guard. They are the same when it comes to quality in most cases. In fact, dentists send your impressions to the same labs that you can contact on your own, you just do the work, like taking the impression, on your own. You can even special order guards for your lower jaw in this way. You can also order soft, hybrid and hard models depending on the severity of your bruxism.


Q: How Should a Custom Mouth Guard Fit?

A custom mouth guard should fit comfortably, it should not shift and should hold your teeth in place. In order to get the right fit, you will need to simply bite into a special kit that will be sent to you from the lab, taking your own impression. You will send the mold back and receive your mouth guard in its place. A guard can last for years, depending on the material, quality and severity of your grinding.


Sports Mouth Guards

Q: Can I Just Use a Sports Guard?

Some people believe that they can use a sports guard in place of a mouth guard. Though something is better than nothing, a sports guard will not keep your teeth in place like a custom mouth guard will. They are made of different materials, are designed for different uses and though can work for the short term, are not recommended as a long term solution.



Upper or Lower Mouth Guard

Q: Does the Mouth Guard Go on the Upper Teeth, Lower Teeth or Both?

Though you can certainly get a custom made guard for your lower teeth, in most cases you will only use one mouth guard and it will be placed on the upper teeth. The upper guard is usually the best option for everyone and lower guards are usually only available as a special order. The only exception is that some people will do better, especially those with TMJ, with a lower guard. For bruxism, start with the upper guard for best results.


Loose Night Guard

Q: How Can I Learn to Sleep in a Night Guard?

Because a night guard may feel different to you, you may have difficulty sleeping in the guard. This is especially true if you are using a guard that doesn’t fit well. One trick that people have used in the past is wearing the night guard for a few hours before bed to get used to it. You can also get a custom guard if you are using an off counter guard currently. You will notice a huge difference.



Q: Will the Mouth Guard Fall Out at Night?

Some people say that their mouth guards shift or even fall out at night. They also may take the guard out themselves in their sleep. However, this will not happen if you make sure you are only using a custom, lab made guard. With a good fit, the night guard will not shift or fall out, you won’t be able to spit it out nor will you be compelled to take it out, as you will be comfortable.


Maintenance and Cleaning of the Mouth Guard

Q: How do You Clean Your Mouth Guard?

Each time you use your guard, you will need to make sure that you are cleaning it correctly. You will be able to remove saliva, as well as microscopic bacteria, by rinsing the guard with cool water when you remove it, then brushing it with toothpaste. Once a week, use a cleaner like Efferdent or Ortho Clean but stay away from natural cleaners like vinegar or hydrogen peroxide as they will cause your mouth guard to smell.

You might find this helpful – 7 Recommended Methods for Cleaning Your Mouthguard – Click to Enter



Mouth Guards and Braces

Q: Can I Wear a Mouth Guard with Braces?

Many people who have braces find that they will also grind or clench and they wonder if a mouth guard can work for them. In this case, it is best to see an orthodontist as you may need a specific type of guard as to not interfere with your braces. It is certainly possible to wear certain night guards with orthodontic braces, but not recommended to try on your own.

Additionally, if your braces goes only on one part of your jaw (your upper teeth or lower teeth) and not on both sides, consult your orthodontist about mouth guard that will go on the opposite side of your braces. This solution is possible and you could check it out as well.


Children Teeth Grinding and Mouth Guards

Q: Can Children and Babies Have Bruxism?

Many parents will wonder if babies and children can have bruxism and research shows that they can. In fact, about 38% of babies and children will start grinding as soon as they have teeth to grind. Like adults, this can be caused by stress. It can also be caused by other reasons as well:

  • Teething
  • Earaches
  • Pacifier Use
  • Hyperactivity
  • Nasal Obstruction
  • Sleep Disorders
  • New Adult Teeth


Q: Can Children and Babies Wear Mouth Guards?

Though there are dentists who will prescribe mouth guards for children and babies, most won’t because of the rate children grow. They also may find it uncomfortable and will be less willing to try it than an adult will. There are some things you can do, however, like eliminate stress before bedtime with a bedtime story, make sure they are not dehydrated before bed and ensure that they are getting enough sleep. This can certainly be a contributing factor to bruxism in children, as well.


More FAQs:


  1. Reply
    rachael December 1, 2020 at 12:26 pm

    i bite my lips and gums till they bleed and get infected to the point where i can’t eat food for a week would a mouth guard help me

  2. Reply
    steven vazquez August 21, 2018 at 9:08 am

    I have not wore my NIGHTGUARD to sleep for 2 weeks can it cause breathing problems

  3. Reply
    Lilly April 22, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    Can I remold my at home mouth guard?

  4. Reply
    nilam November 20, 2017 at 6:45 am

    mu dentist gave me half a guard it worked for one night and then lost its shape

    is there a half guard option?

  5. Reply
    Monica May 12, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    Christen, while the bottom ones protect the teeth, I feel they make me grind/clench more. I had a top one once, but it was different. It was thicker at the front teeth, forcing your lower jaw to lower and relax. It was the best thing since sliced bread. I don’t know what that kind is called, but I’d like to get another. The place I got it done is no longer there because he died. Dummy me, I had strep and placed it in boiling water for only a moment and it messed up the impression and it no longer fit. It was thick in the front and since you really can’t grind while wearing it and eventually cracked it, I’ll bet this one would have lasted a very long time. Regular dentists act like they don’t know what kind that is so I don’t know how to find someone to get another

  6. Reply
    Christen February 28, 2017 at 1:33 am

    Do bottom bite guards or upper bite guards make TMJ worse? I’ve worn one for 17 years. I’m on my third one. Used my first Lower one but without it for two nights I’ve felt so much better. Should I switch to upper? I forgot what that’s like since it’s been at least a year since using an upper. However I misplaced mine 2 nights ago. And I’ve noticed there’s no TMJ clenching pain when I wake up. It’s been so nice to not have that. Now I’m sure I’m not doing my teeth any favors but not waking up feeling I need a facial massage has been amazing. Any suggestions on research or your opinion which puts less stress on the jaw muscles/making TMJ less painful?

  7. Reply
    Kira December 17, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    Hi, I have a custom made mouth guard but I do in fact spit it out in my sleep. I’ve had the fit checked and it does indeed fit fine but it remains uncomfortable and as said – I remove it in my sleep. It’s a thick material as I grind fairly heavily which I think might cause the discomfort. Is there any way I can keep it in, or a different alternative? I’m quite desperate to find a way to keep it in as my teeth chip from grinding sometimes!

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