Selecting the Best Night Guard for Your Oral Health

Night guards, also called mouth guards, bite guards, or teeth protectors, are tooth coverings to ease night clenching and grinding known as bruxism. Bruxism is considered a sleep disorder that affects some 31% of adults. Night guards are not to be confused with sports mouth guards, which are worn by athletes to reduce the risk of trauma to their teeth during sport.

Easing the associated clenching and grinding with teeth protectors helps protect against tooth damage and gum recession. It also promotes better sleep and better dental health overall, along with less jaw pain.

This article will explain when to get a night guard and other reasons to consider sleeping with a night guard or wearing a mouth guard during the day.

Woman holding night guard

Ivan-balvan / Getty Images

Reasons to Consider a Night Guard

People wear night guards for many different reasons, including the following:

Bruxism Symptoms

Bruxism is a condition that causes a person to grind, gnash, or clench their jaw muscles, which can occur during the day or at night. Symptoms include:

  • Tooth wear and tear (enamel abrasion, decay, chips, cracks, and flattening)
  • Pain and tension in the jaw 
  • Jaw locking, snapping, clicking into place, dislocating
  • Tongue indentations (especially if dehydrated mouth)
  • Inner-cheek indentations, damage from friction, wear and tear on tissue from teeth grinding

Sleep Apnea

While mouth guards are not the first choice of treatment for sleep apnea, they can offer some benefits for people with mild to moderate sleep apnea, in which breathing stops and restarts during sleep. Mouth guards keep the airway open by preventing the tongue from blocking the throat.


If you are grinding your teeth during the night and have braces, your dentist or orthodontist may decide you need a night guard. In this case, you'll get a custom-fit piece that goes over your braces. There are some brands and models of night guards on the market that are designed to be used with braces.

Different Types and Fit

Several types of mouth guards are available for purchase. The type of mouth guard best for you is based on the reason for using a mouth guard and your overall budget.


Custom-fit night guards are best suited to help prevent nighttime teeth clenching and grinding associated with bruxism. Custom mouth guards are made specifically for your unique needs and are available from your dentist. This type is the most expensive, but offers the best protection for your teeth.

Generic Fit or Stock

The generic fit, stock size, or “one-size-fits-most” is an option that can be used for protection against injury in athletic settings. You purchase the mouth guard (online, drugstore or pharmacy) and it is already preformed and ready to wear. Stock mouth guards do offer protection, but since they are not fitted to your teeth, they aren’t likely to fit very well. 


You can also purchase a "boil-and-bite" mouth guard. This works by boiling the night guard to soften it, and then creating your own custom fit by biting down and holding it in place until the material cools and hardens. This is less expensive than a custom-fit guard but offers more individualized support than a stock fit. This type can be used as a night guard or as a mouth guard in athletic settings.

It is important to consult your orthodontist or dentist before using a boil-and-bite mouth guard when you have braces or fixed retainers. If it is used incorrectly over braces, a mouth guard may be impossible to remove.

Adjustable Fit

You can also find stock mouth guards that include adjustable components. These are another option for a more comfortable or customizable fit if choosing a custom-fit isn’t an option. 

Cleaning Your Night Guard 

Be sure to clean your night guard thoroughly. A gentle hand wash to remove bacteria after each use is ideal. Some mouth guard care tips include:

  • Rinse before and after every use.
  • Clean with cool, soapy water then rinse thoroughly.
  • Don't leave it in direct sunlight or hot water.
  • Hand wash only.
  • Store in ventilated case (most will come with a proper case).

Best Pharmacy Options 

Pharmacy options include stock it, boil-and-bite, and adjustable mouth guards. Pharmacy mouth guards are not as durable (they won’t last as long). You may need to replace it every few months.

Look for BPA-Free 

Different mouth guards may be made of different types of plastic. Some will be harder or softer than others. In any case, you’ll want to look for BPA-free mouth guards. BPA (bisphenol A) is a chemical substance in plastic that has been linked to health concerns in fetuses, infants, children and animals. Health concerns include hormonal disruption and fertility issues, along with increased blood pressure and heart disease risk.

The good news is that you don’t need to look too hard to find a BPA-free mouth guard these days. 

How to Get a Custom Night Guard

You get a custom night guard from your dentist. They have the tools and materials to take a mold of your teeth, and then will either create the custom night guard onsite or send it to another professional to create the final product. When the guard is ready, you'll have an in-person fitting where your dental healthcare provider will ensure proper fitting and make adjustments as necessary.

With custom-fit night guards, there’s the advantage of being able to bring your night guard to your dentist for a health check. Your dentist can look for cracks, do a sterilization cleaning, and offer input on cleaning techniques and when you need to replace the mouth guard (usually every few years, but it depends on wear and tear).


Mouth guards and night guards are used to help protect your teeth whether it be from teeth clenching and grinding or teeth injury. Options include custom-fit, stock fit, boil-and-bite, and adjustable devices. Custom-fit options last longer and are more durable. They are available from your dentist, whereas the generic fit options and boil-and-bite can be found in BPA-free options at a pharmacy.

A Word From Verywell

Adjusting to wearing a night guard or mouth guard can take some time. Try to be patient during the first few times you wear a new mouth guard and remember that it will feel more "normal" the more you do it. Even custom-fit options may feel out of place in your mouth if you're new to wearing protective gear. Know that your mouth will adjust to having a guard in place.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do night guards work with braces?

    Yes. However, you will need a custom-fit night guard that is designed to fit over top of your braces. Your dentist or orthodontist can determine whether or not a night guard with braces is necessary.

  • What are the signs of nighttime teeth clenching?

    Signs of nighttime teeth clenching include:

    • Teeth wear and tear (enamel abrasion, decay, chips, cracks, and flattening)
    • Pain and tension in jaw 
    • Jaw locking, snapping, clicking into place, dislocating
    • Tongue indentations (especially if dehydrated or dry mouth)
    • Inner-cheek indentations, damage from friction, wear and tear on tissue from teeth grinding
  • What’s the average cost of a night guard?

    The average cost of a night guard varies depending on fit and type. A custom-fit model from your dentist is likely the most expensive option, but it's also the most durable and can last for years. You can also find over-the-counter types at your local pharmacy for a fraction of the cost. You will need to replace these more often, though.

  • Does a night guard take some getting used to?

    Yes. Even if you have a custom-fit night guard, it can take some time wearing it to feel comfortable. Wear it as often as recommended (usually every night) to adjust as quickly as possible. Stock fit options may take longer to adjust to.

  • What’s the link between bruxism and anger?

    Bruxism and anger can be found together. Some suggest there's a biological link between the two (ie., the two are associated with neurotransmitter differences). Anger is an emotion that can cause a buildup of tension. A person who holds onto their anger may find themselves clenching their jaw and teeth grinding during the night.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Mesko ME, Hutton B, Skupien JA, Sarkis-Onofre R, Moher D, Pereira-Cenci T. Therapies for bruxism: a systematic review and network meta-analysis (protocol)Syst Rev. 2017;6(4). doi:10.1186/s13643-016-0397-z

  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Bruxism.

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Oral appliance therapy for obstructive sleep apnea.

  4. Mouthguards: Information for parents.

  5. Rochester JR. Bisphenol A and human health: a review of the literatureReprod Toxicol. 2013 Dec;42:132-155. doi:10.1016/j.reprotox.2013.08.008

By Michelle Pugle
Michelle Pugle, BA, MA, is an expert health writer with nearly a decade of contributing accurate and accessible health news and information to authority websites and print magazines. Her work focuses on lifestyle management, chronic illness, and mental health. Michelle is the author of Ana, Mia & Me: A Memoir From an Anorexic Teen Mind.