Custom Made Dentist Night Guard vs Over-The-Counter

Which is better - dentist made night guard vs over-the-counter

When you wear a dental night guard while you sleep, you can reduce tooth damage caused by grinding your teeth at night. But which type of night guard will work best for you? There are custom-made and over-the-counter (OTC) night guards that provide the same protection. While an over-the-counter night guard can be cheaper than a custom-made one, it’s worth considering the quality of the materials used, how well the guard fits, and what to expect in terms of comfort before you make a decision.

smiling woman holding night guard

What is a night guard?

A night guard is a retainer-like device worn over either your top or bottom teeth while sleeping. Doing so prevents your teeth from grinding on top of each other. A custom-made night guard also has many names, but dentists will always call it either a mouth guard, oral appliance, occlusal guard, bite splint, dental guard, or nocturnal bite plate.

Do you need a night guard?

Do you grind your teeth? Do you wake up in the morning with neck pain? If so, then wearing a guard while you sleep can prevent damage to your teeth and relieve the pain associated with the condition. Teeth grinding and clenching, also known as bruxism, can result in pain and damage to your teeth and jaw if not treated.

A night guard is a removable oral appliance that protects your teeth from grinding at night. The device is made of plastic or acrylic and fits snugly into place, generally on the upper teeth. Most people who grind their teeth do not even know they are doing it until someone mentions it or they experience pain. One of the first signs that someone might have bruxism is waking up with neck pain or difficulty chewing certain foods in the morning. In some cases, patients do not know they have severe tooth wear until they visit the dentist, have broken teeth, have sudden tooth pain due to a process called attrition, or experience tooth loss. 

What causes bruxism is unclear, but many people believe it can be linked to stress, anxiety, crooked teeth, an abnormal bite, snoring, smoking, alcohol use, caffeine, and sleep apnea. According to the American Sleep Association (ASA), symptoms of bruxism include:

  • Fatigue
  • Face pain
  • Jaw soreness
  • Headaches in the morning

Types of Night guards

If your dentist has identified bruxism as the cause of your dental problems, there are two types of night guards to help prevent further tooth enamel damage.

Over-the-counter night guard – There are two basic types of OTC night guards / mouth guards. The first type is the one-size-fits-all variety, designed to fit most mouth types. The second type is the boil-and-bite night guard, which must be softened with heat and then molded into shape to fit your teeth. 

Custom night guard – An alternative to a general-purpose over-the-counter mouth guard is one made by your family dentist that fits you perfectly. For the best night guard, your dentist can create a custom guard by taking a mold of your teeth, where the night guard will be durable, comfortable, and lightweight enough to wear at night without interrupting your sleep.

Which one is for me?

Here are some pros and cons of whether an over-the-counter night guard or a custom night guard will work for you.

Benefits of an Over-the-Counter night guard

The biggest benefit to an over-the-counter night guard is they are less expensive than one made by a dentist. If you don’t have time to visit the dentist or are simply in a hurry to receive treatment, you can get your OTC mouth guard at almost any pharmacy, online retailer, or retailer store. Here are some benefits why some may choose one over a custom-made one.

  • Easy to purchase
  • Affordable
  • Fairly quick to fit

Drawbacks of an Over-the-Counter night guard

In general, over-the-counter night guards are usually thicker than custom-fitted ones, and many people find them too thick to sleep comfortably with. The biggest drawback is that the impression needs to be done correctly otherwise, your night guard will not fit your mouth correctly. Other drawbacks include:

  • The device may not be able to fit in your mouth precisely.
  • It may provide you with less than perfect protection, resulting in early signs of wear.
  • It may interfere with breathing.
  • If your night guard is made from inferior quality or it is too soft, your brain may subconsciously consider it chewable, and your jaw joint, jaw muscles will work harder to try to break it down.
  • It may only stay in place when you close your mouth.
  • Patients find it difficult to sleep with, resulting in not using them and damaging their teeth.

Benefits of a professionally made night guard

The cost of getting a night guard from your dentist may be higher than choosing a less expensive option. However, when you add in the benefits of getting a customized night guard, this alternative might be a better fit. These benefits include:

  • A more comfortable custom fit night guard.
  • A more effective night guard means better protection against headaches, tooth sensitivity, and toothaches.
  • A night guard made from quality material will last longer than cheaper options.
  • Professional treatment where you have peace of mind knowing your treatment will work in protecting your teeth, gums, and surrounding oral tissue.

Drawbacks of a Custom night guard

Night guards are highly recommended for people who suffer from bruxism. However, there are some drawbacks.

  • Wait time. A night guard that is custom-fitted to your mouth takes time to create. Your dentist will first need to take an impression of your teeth at the office, which takes approximately a week before it is ready.
  • Cost is a factor. Depending on your dental insurance plan, it may only cover a portion or none of the cost.

Why we recommend one over the other

Your bite is an intricate system made up of teeth, bones, and muscles, and it’s unique to you. If your dentist recommends a night guard to prevent your teeth from wearing down further due to a simple bite problem, using an over-the-counter night guard may cause it to worsen from a simple bite problem to a complex case of TMJ.

When using an over-the-counter night guard, there are many variables that may cause it to worsen, such as a bad impression taken at home or the quality of material used is not sufficient. When getting a night guard from the dentist, your night guard will be made to fit your mouth.

Common questions on mouth guards

You should visit your general dentist even if you’re planning on getting an over-the-counter night guard. The reason is that the cause of your teeth grinding can be something other than bruxism or something even more severe. Without proper diagnosis, you will temporarily mask the symptom until the problem worsens.

Night guards are essential for protecting your teeth from nighttime damage, but it is also important to keep them clean. Here are a few tips for keeping your night guard clean:

  1. Rinse it with warm water every morning and every night before putting it in your mouth and after you take it out.
  2. Use a toothbrush to clean the inside after each use. Avoid using toothpaste on the guard as it might damage it and wear out more quickly.
  3. Allow your night guard to dry before putting it away to keep bacteria away. A flat and clean surface is best for drying.
  4. To keep your night guard in good shape, you should store it in a closed case once you are done wearing it.

If you have dental restorations such as dental implants, crowns, dentures, or bridges, your dentist will recommend that you wear a nightguard to help protect your teeth. Wearing a properly fitted device like a mouth guard at night will help protect your teeth from damage caused by excessive contact. Not doing so can cause serious jaw joint problems, headaches, and more.

We can help protect your teeth in Fairview, TX

Custom made dental night guard

If you have nightly problems like teeth clenching, grinding, or jaw pain, talk to your dentist about effective, safe, long-term solutions for TMJ, sleep apnea, and other dental issues. Whether you decide one or the other, if using a dental appliance is recommended, you should get one to protect your teeth from further damage. If you’re looking for professional treatment, we offer a variety of treatments for nighttime teeth grinding and discomfort in our Fairview office. 

At Sloan Creek Dental, we know that a healthy smile is important to the quality of your life. That’s why we provide top-quality dental services and beautiful smiles at an affordable price. If you have any questions about your oral health or other treatment plans, call us at 972-468-1440 today to schedule your consultation with Dr. Feng.

Our dental office is located in Fairview, Texas, and our patients visit us from across the surrounding areas, including Allen, Plano, McKinney, and Lucas.