Custom or Over-the-Counter Night Guards?
What Experts Say

According to studies, bruxism or teeth grinding may produce a force of up to 250 pounds (1,700 kilopascals) on an opposing tooth or teeth. It can be likened to a commercial washing machine being pressed on your teeth on a nightly basis.

That's why people with severe bruxism often suffer from morning jaw pain or fatigue, temporal headaches, and, worse, jaw locking.

Some are recommended with night guards or bite splints to avoid getting into so much pain and further tooth damage.

A night guard covers either the front upper teeth or lower teeth and safeguards them from potential damage while reducing teeth grinding and clenching noises associated with bruxism.

There are two main types of night guards: custom-fitted and over-the-counter bite splints. If you want to know more about their differences, stick around.

Over-the-counter night guard

When are night guards necessary?

Let's get the facts straight first.

Although commonly used and relatively safe, there's a limited number of research studies proving the significant impact of night guards in reducing frequent teeth grinding.

However, many patients report that regular use of these devices helps alleviate morning jaw discomfort. They also prove to be quite effective in reducing pressure on the teeth and preventing tooth wear based on anecdotal evidence.

Therefore, a night guard may be recommended or reasonably beneficial for patients who want to minimize discomfort or avoid further tooth damage caused by excessive tooth grinding.

Your decision will also depend on your orthodontist; that's why getting a consultation before getting yourself a night guard is essential.

Considerations when using night guards

Each type of night guard differs in cost, comfort, reliability, and durability. Ultimately, the choice between custom-fitted and pre-made night guards would depend on your individual needs and several factors, such as:

  1. Severity of bruxism – the more severe tooth-grinding is, the thicker the night guard is.
  2. Comfort and fit – a night guard should fit comfortably in your mouth; else, it can irritate your gums.
  3. Material – bite splints can be made from various materials depending on the severity of grinding; they can include soft, flexible plastics or harder, more rigid acrylic materials.
  4. Cost - the cost of the night guard can be a deal-breaker. For example, a custom-fitted night guard is usually more expensive than over-the-counter ones, but they provide better fit and more effective protection.
  5. Allergies or sensitivities - Monomers and peroxides, potentially allergens, are present in numerous acrylics that create bite splints.

Now, let's explore the two main night guard options.

Pre-made or over-the-counter night guards

Developments in orthodontics have gone a long way, allowing people with patients to buy a night guard over the counter without a prescription.

These types of mouthguards are commonly made from thin, pliable plastic. They're cheaper and often come in two types: a one-size-fits-all variation and a boil-and-bite night guard. A typical over-the-counter night guard can cost around $10 to $30 on average, depending on the brand.

These guards are a one-size-fits-all product; thus, they might not be custom-fitted to your teeth. You can buy them online through Amazon or from other instore or online retailers in Culver City, such as Target and Best Buy.

Popular over-the-counter night guard brands include:

  • Oral-B Nighttime Dental Guard
  • DenTek Professional-Fit Maximum Protection Dental Guard
  • ASRL Mouth Guard for Grinding Teeth

The other type of night guard is known as a "boil-and-bite" night guard, which gets its name from the customization process. To use this night guard, you first need to soften it by boiling or microwaving it. Once it's soft and pliable, you place it in your mouth and mold it to fit your teeth by applying pressure on your teeth or tongue.

The process is considered safe and a more tolerable solution; it might not be recommended for patients with severe bruxism. Boil-and-bite night guards usually last three to six months, depending on the material and how much you grind your teeth.

Pros and cons of over-the-counter night guards

A study in the UK aimed to raise awareness and categorize the types of over-the-counter bite splints available online.

The study found that, like any partial coverage dental appliance, prolonged usage of over-the-counter splints may lead to potential tooth movement.

It was also discovered that many individuals in the UK might be bypassing their dentists by buying OTC bruxism splints on the Internet, which may be the leading cause of unmonitored and unwanted teeth shifting.

As the old saying goes, "Buy cheap, buy twice."

The temptation to buy cheaper products is understandable when dealing with a tight budget. However, it's essential to consider the drawbacks.

While OTC night guards may be easily accessible, affordable, and widely available, they cannot match the reliability of a custom-fitted night guard provided by your orthodontist.

Custom or dentist night guards

A custom night or dentist night guard is created in a dental office with the help of a dental expert.

To obtain one, your dentist will first take an impression of your teeth during a visit. This impression is then sent to a dental lab, where a custom dental guard or night guard is meticulously crafted to fit your teeth perfectly.

Upon receiving the dental night guard, your dentist may make further adjustments to ensure it offers optimal comfort.

However, it's important to note that this process may require multiple visits to the dentist and typically takes a few weeks to a month to complete.

It's safe to say that in-office night guards are more efficient and comfortable than those bought over the counter. The reason is that it requires the direct involvement of a dentist who ensures the preciseness of the product.

That said, it can cost ten times more than the cheapest OTC night guards. Getting a custom-fit night guard can range from $300 to $1000.

Dentist night guards may come with a higher cost due to the inclusion of professional services alongside the product. It's also important to consider a few expenses that may be added, such as:

custom or dentist night guard

Dental Exam

Before designing a night guard, you must undergo a dental exam to assess the severity of your bruxism and determine the most suitable option. If you have dental insurance, this examination might be covered.

Out-of-pocket costs

It's essential to check if your policy covers a night guard and the percentage it will cover. Many dental plans only partially cover the cost, making you responsible for the remaining amount out of pocket.

Replacement costs

If your night guard breaks, cracks, or develops holes, you must get a replacement. Most insurance plans typically cover only one replacement guard within a specific time frame.

Nevertheless, investing in a custom night guard helps you benefit from the expertise of a dental professional who will skillfully design a durable and comfortable custom guard or bite splint tailored to your needs.

A well-designed custom night guard can last around five years if properly managed. But if it experiences significant wear, it might need replacement in just one year.

Pros and cons of in-office night guards

One of the most significant advantages of in-office night guards is their custom fit. Since it is designed to fit perfectly to one's teeth, it provides greater comfort and stability than over-the-counter options.

Also, in-office night guards are more likely to provide adequate protection against bruxism. Due to their precise fit, they offer a more efficient and durable barrier between the upper and lower teeth, preventing enamel wear, fractures, and other dental problems caused by grinding or jaw clenching.

When your custom night guard causes pain or discomfort, you can visit your dentist to make the necessary adjustments. This personalized attention ensures dental protection and that the night guard remains wearable over time.

As mentioned, in-office night guards come with the dentist's expertise, who can guide you on properly using and maintaining the device. They can also address any concerns or issues during the treatment.

Despite their numerous advantages, in-office night guards do have some drawbacks too.

Aside from the higher cost, the time-consuming process of obtaining them through multiple visits to the dentist can give you a hard time. There's also the possibility of misplacing or losing your guards, leading to costly replacements.

Custom vs over-the-counter night guards

A recent study suggests that over-the-counter night guard products (primarily online) are estimated to dominate the night guard market. Not only is this associated with the convenience and affordability of the product, but it is also ascribed to the growing prevalence of bruxism.

Although some view this market as advantageous for consumers, it is crucial to shed light on potential drawbacks. Among these concerns are unproven assertions regarding the effectiveness of cheaper night guard products.

Most dental experts would still recommend the former when choosing between in-office or OTC night guards because it's the safer option.

Indeed, choosing custom night guards might encourage you to shell out more money than expected. But you get the privilege of receiving professional dental care and guidance in return.

Remember, dental care is an invaluable investment that pays dividends in the form of a radiant smile, improved self-esteem, and enhanced overall health.

Orthodontist in Culver City

Are you having trouble with teeth-grinding? Has it gotten on your nerves? Fret no more!

Explore your options and prioritize your dental care today by scheduling a consultation at United Dental Care in Culver City.

Our orthodontist is here to guide you in choosing the ideal night guard for your needs. Experience the comfort and effectiveness of a custom-fit night guard. Invest in your oral health now and enjoy a lifetime of smiles.

Visit United Dental Care in Culver City now. We serve patients living in Culver City and neighboring cities. Find the perfect solution for your teeth-grinding concerns or other dental issues today!

Book your appointment now

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