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Updated on July 19, 2022

Types of Night Guards and Who Needs Them

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What are Night Guards?

Night guards are plastic devices that fit over the upper or lower teeth. People wear them while they sleep. Like athletic mouthguards, night guards absorb pressure and stress that would otherwise strain your teeth.

But rather than protecting your teeth from acute sports injuries, night guards are intended to prevent tooth wear caused by bruxism (grinding).1, 2

clear aligners in glass

Who Needs a Night Guard?

If you grind your teeth at night, a night guard may keep you from wearing down your teeth over time.3 Nightguards can also prevent damage to your existing restorations like crowns and implants. 

Some dentists and doctors recommend night guards for sleep apnea. One study found they may also reduce occurrences of canker sores.4

While a night guard can prevent bruxism-related teeth damage, it may not address the underlying cause.5,6,7

Jaw muscle clenching and bruxism are common, normal stress responses.8 They can also be responses to poor breathing, which may be a result of poor sleep and dietary habits.9

Consult your doctor or dentist if you think you need a night guard. While it might not cure bruxism, it will protect your teeth.3,5

3 Types of Night Guards

Here are three common types of night guards:

1. Ready-to-Wear

Ready-to-wear or stock night guards come as one-size-fits-all. They’re affordable and easy to find in stores, but they’re not the highest in quality.

Pros 

  • No need to shape or fit it beforehand
  • Affordable
  • Easy to find at your local drugstore

Cons

  • Not likely to fit well
  • May be uncomfortable to wear
  • Made with cheap material
  • Won’t offer as much protection for your teeth as other night guards would

2. Boil-and-Bite

Boil-and-bite night guards are similar to ready-to-wear ones, except they fit to your teeth better.

They’re made from thermoplastics, which soften with heat. By placing the night guard in hot (not boiling) water, you can make it soft and pliable.

You can then fit the night guard onto your teeth. After placing it in your mouth, press it onto your teeth and bite down onto it. Run it under cold water to harden it again.

Pros

  • Can be shaped to fit your teeth
  • Affordable
  • Easy to find at your local drugstore
  • More comfortable than ready-to-wear night guards

Cons

  • Don’t fit as well as a dentist-made, custom night guard
  • May be uncomfortable to wear, even after being shaped
  • Made with mid-quality material that may not last long

3. Custom-Fitted

Custom-fitted night guards provide the most tailored fit to your unique teeth and bite. They’re also made from more durable materials.

To make a custom-fitted night guard, your dentist will make impressions of your teeth. A dental lab will then use those impressions to create your night guard.

A custom night guard is likely to be the most comfortable and most effective at protecting your teeth. This is especially the case if you have braces or dental implants, as store-bought night guards won’t fit around your braces or implants.

Pros 

  • Professionally molded to perfectly fit your teeth
  • More comfortable
  • High-quality material that can last years

Cons

  • May be more expensive, depending on what your insurance provider will cover

How to Clean and Care for Your Night Guard 

Caring for your night guard involves keeping it clean and avoiding damage. To keep your night guard clean, follow a daily cleaning routine, just as you do for your teeth. 

Daily Cleaning

Do the following daily to keep your night guard clean:

  • Rinse your night guard every morning after taking it out. Use warm water and rinse thoroughly to get rid of any food particles or plaque.
  • Lightly brush your night guard with your toothbrush after you rinse it.
  • Gently wash your night guard. Don’t use an abrasive toothpaste or alcoholic mouthwash. Castile soap, dish soap, non-abrasive toothpaste, and alcohol-free mouthwash are all safe options.
  • Let your night guard dry completely. Leave your night guard on a clean surface for 15 to 30 minutes to fully dry.
  • Store your night guard in a vented case. Make sure the case is dry. You may want to keep the case away from the humidity of your bathroom.

Deep Cleaning

At least once a month, you should deep clean your night guard. You can do this with an over-the-counter (OTC) denture cleaning solution or with vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.

If you’re using a denture solution, follow the instructions carefully. Avoid denture solutions that contain artificial fragrances or dyes.

If you’d prefer to use vinegar and peroxide:

  • Soak your night guard in vinegar for 30 minutes
  • Rinse it with cool water
  • Soak it in hydrogen peroxide for another 30 minutes
  • Rinse again and let dry on a clean surface

After deep cleaning, store your night guard in its case.

What Not to Do When Caring for Your Night Guard

Just as it’s important to clean your night guard, you should also be sure not to do anything that might damage or weaken it.

Do not:

  • Expose your night guard to extreme heat or cold. A boil-and-bite (thermoplastic) mouthguard may be distorted by heat. Repeated exposure to extreme temperatures can damage other night guards too.
  • Soak your night guard in anything for longer than an hour. This can damage the material over time and prevent your night guard from lasting long.
  • Use anything containing alcohol to clean or soak your night guard.
  • Forget to clean your night guard case. A clean night guard shouldn’t be stored in a dirty case.

If cared for properly, a custom-fitted night guard from a dental professional can last years. Store-bought night guards, on the other hand, may not last more than a few months, even with regular cleaning and care.

No matter what kind of night guard you have, be sure to keep it clean and damage-free for as long as you can.

Night Guard Costs & Where to Buy Them

You can buy ready-to-wear and boil-and-bite mouthguards at your local drugstore. They typically cost $30 or less.

Custom-fitted night guards may cost anywhere from $100 to several hundred dollars. You can get one from your dentist or an online supplier.

An online retailer may provide a durable, comfortable and effective night guard, but your dentist will have better knowledge of your unique situation. However, the online option is likely to be less expensive.

The cost of a custom guard may also depend on your insurance provider. In some cases, insurance may cover as much as half the cost.

9 Sources Cited
Last updated on July 19, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Radke, Stacy. “The Best Mouthguards for Bruxism.” DDS Lab.
  2. Mouthguards.” Cleveland Clinic.
  3. Gerstner, Geoffrey E. “Nocturnal Mouth Guards, SOVA vs. Standard Acrylic Orthotic; Phase IV (SISU-SOVA).” U.S. National Library of Medicine. 9 Jul. 2018.
  4. Tada, Hidesuke et al. “Preventive effects of mouthguard use while sleeping on recurrent aphthous stomatitis: Preliminary interventional study.Clinical and experimental dental research vol. 3,5 198-203. 11 Oct. 2017, doi:10.1002/cre2.88.
  5. Macedo, C R et al. “Occlusal splints for treating sleep bruxism (tooth grinding).The Cochrane database of systematic reviews ,4 CD005514. 17 Oct. 2007, doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005514.pub2.
  6. van der Zaag, Jacques et al. “Controlled assessment of the efficacy of occlusal stabilization splints on sleep bruxism.Journal of orofacial pain vol. 19,2 : 151-8.
  7. Shetty, Shilpa et al. “Bruxism: a literature review.Journal of Indian Prosthodontic. Society vol. 10,3 : 141-8. doi:10.1007/s13191-011-0041-5.
  8. Lavigne, G. J., et al. “Rhythmic Masticatory Muscle Activity during Sleep in Humans.” Journal of Dental Research, vol. 80, no. 2, Feb. 2001, pp. 443–448, doi:10.1177/00220345010800020801.
  9. Kate Murphy. “Grind Your Teeth? Your Night Guard May Not Be the Right Fix.New York Times, 16 Feb. 2021.
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