Teeth grinding or clenching, also known as bruxism, is pretty common and can be painful and destructive to teeth. Luckily, there are options on the market for night guards to anyone that clenches and grinds while they should be sleeping.
Bruxism is fairly common and some may not even be aware of their own grinding. Some signs you may be a teeth-grinder are waking up with dull headaches, jaw soreness, face pain, and fatigue since it can disrupt sleep. In some cases, it’s the bedroom partner who hears the grinding.
Occasional bruxism may not cause any real concerns, but when it’s done regularly over time, it can cause broken teeth, loss of tooth enamel, and in severe cases, loss of teeth.
The exact cause is unknown, but it’s believed that stress and anxiety play the biggest role. Other causes may also be alcohol use, cigarettes, caffeine, sleep apnea, snoring, an abnormal bite, and crooked teeth.
Most cases of bruxism can easily be treated by wearing a night guard while you sleep. Night guards are also known as dental guards, mouth guards, nocturnal bite plates, or bite splints. They work by putting a barrier between your teeth. When you clench your jaw, the night guard helps to lighten the tension and give cushion to the muscles in the jaw. This cushioning not only helps to prevent face and jaw pain, but also protects the enamel of your teeth.
Night guards can be purchased over-the-counter without a prescription and also straight from the dentist. They can be fitted in a few different ways and the type you need just depends on your individual needs.
Types of night guards
Soft night guard.
This is the most commonly used type of night guard and used mostly for mild or occasional cases, not for severe grinders.
- Most comfortable fit of all the night guards
- Most adaptable/easy to get used to
- Usually lower cost
- Some people unintentionally clench on to or chew the soft material
- Not as durable/limited life-span
- Most warranties are only 6 months or less due to the limited life-span
- Not a long-term solution
Dual Laminate Night Guards
This type is for moderately severe grinders. They are soft on the inside and hard on the outside.
- Handles heavy clenching and grinding
- Longer lasting
- Usually offers a longer warranty than soft guards
- Tend to be a little thicker than the other guards
- Seem to be harder to adjust to
Hard Night Guards
Hard night guards are made from acrylic and are extremely rigid but durable. They can be used for very severe cases of grinding, as well as TMJ.
- Most durable
- Prevents teeth from shifting
- Usually offers the longest warranty
- Thicker than soft night guards
- More uncomfortable than others
- Difficult to get used to sleeping in
- Need to be ordered directly through dentist since an accurate impression is needed for fit
- Can be more pricey than the others
A “con” of any mouth guard is that it can be hard to get used to sleeping with a mouth full of plastic.
Here are a few tips to help you adjust your night guard:
- Choose the thinnest possible guard suitable for you.
- Stick with it for at least 4-6 weeks and make it be a habit. After this amount of time, it should just feel like part of your routine and will seem a lot easier to wear.
- Put it in right before Don’t try to wear it before you’re ready to go to sleep otherwise, it will just feel obnoxious.
Fitting your night guard
How you’ll fit your mouth guard to you personally, depends on the brand you choose.
- “One-size-fits-all.” There are over-the-counter mouth guards you can buy that will not be custom fitted. These may work for the occasional teeth grinder and are probably the lowest-cost option.
- “Boil and bite.” With this type, you just boil in water and bite into it to leave your own impression. It’s usually pretty simple to do and seems to be the most common type out there.
- Order online. There are night guards you can order online. The company you order from has you send your impression to them and they mail back your fitted mouthpiece.
- Made in lab. You can get mouth guards right from your dentist. These offer the most accurate fit because they are made with your impression in a lab.
If you suspect you may suffer from bruxism, don’t worry. It can easily be treated with night guards. However, it’s always good to see a doctor to see if you can discover the root cause and fix that before seeking other treatment. In some cases, sleep apnea can be a cause.
Sleep Apnea and Bruxism
Just before we reach deep sleep, the muscles in our bodies relax. This includes the muscles in the airway, neck, and tongue. When this happens, excess tissue in the neck and airway, along with the tongue, can block airflow when we breathe, causing pauses in breathing. This is known as sleep apnea.
In some cases, the brain tells our jaw to tighten, clench and grind, to hold the airway open so we can breathe.
This keeps air flowing, but prevents entering deep sleep. This compromises mental and physical health.
If sleep apnea is ruled out, a night guard may be what you need to give your jaw some relief, or learn about other ways to stop grinding your teeth at night.