If you grind your teeth at night like I do, you need to know how serious the repercussions are if you don’t take preventative measures. There are a myriad of dental issues that come with not protecting your teeth from harm. It can wear away enamel, grind them down to painful, unattractive nubs and cause cracks in your teeth that eventually lead to expensive root canals, crowns, bridges, or even dentures. There are also social impacts. Consider, you are out on the town, see a the striking figure across the room, approach them, and smile. Their eyes fixate on your teeth; they immediately turns red and walks away. Strike– you now have undatable teeth because you let the grinding go on for too long without correcting it. Not to mention the pain you’ll suffer if you are a severe grinder like I am. The good news is, there are solutions, you just need to pick the right one for you. There are also some dental night guard side effects from wearing one on a regular basis, it will be up to you to decide what pros and cons are right for your lifestyle.
Disposable Night Guards: Over the counter night guards are made of thin plastic. They are made for convenience and/or travel. You buy a pack of them and throw them away after a number of uses, most of them last for a week or two. They are great for a quick fix, or when you do not want to worry about loosing your expensive night guard.
Pros: Disposable night guards are by far the lightest and thinnest on the market, this makes them comfortable to sleep in. They are also very hygienic because you are throwing them away and using a new one every week or so. They have the lowest entry price and you usually get a box of 20 or so that will last you at least a few months. Some models are adjustable to allow for the most comfortable fit of any mouth guard.
Cons: Not designed for long term use and certainly not good for the environment. They are the thinnest plastic of the options provided and so may be chewed through in a few night under some circumstances. It is best to take into account your own grinding or clenching strength before getting a box of these. They are also the most likely to slip out of your mouth or becomes displaced in the night although I have used them for extended periods while traveling and never come close to choking on one. They sometimes just end up on my pillow in the morning. You can find reviews for all the popular over the counter mouth guards here to help you decide if this option is right for you.
Boil and Bite Night Guards: Boil and Bite mouth guards cover only the top or bottom row to prevent your upper and lower teeth from grating against each other. You follow the included instructions, boil the material to soften it and then place it in your mouth and bite down to mold it to your teeth. This allows you a custom fit without needing to pay the hundreds of dollars to have your demist take a form and send it to their lab.
Pros: Over the counter options are much cheaper than going to a dentist while still protecting your teeth. You can expect to spend approximately $20-$40. They also usually come with 2 guards which allow you to get the perfect fit even if you mess one up in the forming process. They are more convenient and easy to obtain as all you need to do is walk into a corner drug store. The material is thinner than custom made night guards, which makes them a little less cumbersome while you’re trying to sleep. Once you mold them to your teeth, you can adjust them yourself to be more comfortable by trimming them with scissors. This option is suitable if you are a light to moderate grinder, and any protection is better than none.
Cons: Although the cost is lower, so is the quality. The molds are not precise to each tooth; they are not as comfortable or effective as custom-made night guards. Also, because the material is so thin, you can bite through it if you grind hard enough. OTC guards don’t support your jaw, which is strained due to teeth grinding– in fact, over time they can have the opposite side effect of positioning your jaw incorrectly causing even worse strain than without the guard. Durability is very low– expect to buy a new guard every few months. You can find reviews for all the popular over the counter mouth guards here to help you decide if this option is right for you.
Custom-Made Night Guards: The next option would be a custom-made night guard through your dentist or a dental lab online. The dentist would simply ask you to bite down on clay for an exact mold of your teeth and then send it to the lab to be recreated in thermoplastic. The Dental Labs send you a kit with instructions on how to take the molds yourself and then you would send them back so they can make the custom night guard for you.
Pros: Going to the dentist will ensure you an exact fit to your teeth that is much more effective and can vary in thickness depending on how severe your grinding is. Being so precise, they are also more comfortable. A bonus is they can be made for the both upper and lower teeth. Because they are so well fitted, they also help the jaw by positioning it correctly and may lead to a reduction in grinding. Their durability reaches a few years which may make up for the cons.
Cons: There will be dentist appointments to pay for. Insurance does not always cover night guards, translating into out of pocket expenses and the hassle of having to go to at least two appointments for a good fitting. The guards themselves are also much more expensive, ranging anywhere from $300-$700. That’s a sizable chunk of change for someone on a budget. Dental Labs are much cheaper but there is always the possibility of messing up the molding process. Fortunately online dental labs are very good about working with you to make sure your mold is perfect before they send you your night guard. You can find reviews for all the most popular Dental Lab Night Guards here.
Possible Dental Night Guard Side Effects:
The side effects of night guards are entirely situational and can be avoided if you choose the correct model and fit for your lifestyle.
Long Term Use and Sleep Apnea: One final thing to consider, which is long term the dental night guard side effects.
There are the obvious things, cost, durability, and comfort– nobody wants to deal with an uncomfortable night guard that isn’t fitted properly so you end up with raw cheeks and gums. However, it goes further than that. Some dentists refuse to recommend them at all, saying it’s just a band-aid to cover an underlying problem. There’s a growing consensus that some teeth grinding is caused by undiagnosed sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is when someone stops breathing temporarily during sleep. If the condition is serious enough, it can cause everything from poor sleep patterns to suffocation. Grinding your teeth is speculated to be the result of your brain telling your jaws to move to clear the air passages. Night guards can prevent you from pushing your jaw out, which can make the apnea worse and in turn make the grinding worse as you try to breathe freely. Some dentists believe that if you treat the sleep apnea, the grinding will stop. It might be worth your while to ask a loved one to keep an eye out for signs of sleep apnea and if there are, to look for a dentist who also treats sleep apnea and be sent for a sleep study to be diagnosed.