Ballpark Estimate: Over-the-counter guards: $10 or less; Custom guards: $400 and $600 on average
When the grind and stress of your hectic days becomes too much to bear, it may cause you to clench your teeth during the night. While this can put you at risk for a number of problems, the solution is simple: to invest in a dental mouth guard that will help keep your teeth from rubbing together while you sleep.
The formal name for teeth grinding and clenching is Bruxism. Interestingly enough, you can suffer from this affliction without even being aware of it. The biggest clue will often be dental damage and/or pain from clenching your jaw so tightly. In addition, if you share a bed, your better half probably hears your teeth rubbing together.
Your body can suffer a number of affects from regularly clenching and grinding your teeth. This is because when you tighten your muscles so hard that your teeth connect, your shoulders, neck and jaw will be very sore and you might even get migraines or other serious mouth and health issues if the problem persists.
Here are a few of the common teeth grinding effects:
- Cracks in your teeth
- Wearing down the tooth enamel
- Ear pain
- TMJ or other jaw problems
- Shoulder pain
- Neck spasms
- Aching muscles in the upper portion of your body
If you notice yourself dealing with any of these issues, it would be worth asking your dentist if he can find any signs that you could grind your teeth.
The Solutions That Exist
If you think you are a regular grinder, the best way to deal with the problem is to use a mouth guard at night. To this end, there are several options to consider. First, you can buy a generic ready-to-wear mouth protector at your local athletic store or in the dental care aisle of many drug stores. These are ready to put on right out of the package and are the least expensive variation of this type of product. On the plus side, they cost very little and don’t require any time investment or effort to get them ready to use. But on the flip side, they are also bulky and uncomfortable to wear and since they aren’t made to fit the specific dimensions of your mouth, they may not be effective in preventing damage from clenching issues. Therefore, most dentists don’t recommend this approach.
Another option is to spend a little more to get a boil and fit mouth guard, which is also commonly sold at athletic stores and drug stores. This device is made from a special plastic that can be heated until it becomes very soft and moldable, then you can form it into the shape of your mouth for a personalized fit. This can be a good, very affordable option if you need something to wear just occasionally when you’re feeling particularly tense.
Finally, if teeth clenching is a serious and ongoing problem for you and you are suffering any ill effects as a result, your best bet is to spend more and have your dentist fit you for a custom dental night guard that is made specifically to work within the dimensions and curves of your own mouth. The guard is made from an impression of your own teeth, so it will offer the ultimate in comfortable and protection. This means it can be considerably more expensive than the more generic versions, but in return you’ll protect your dental health. You may even find that in the long run, this small investment can actually save you quite a bit by preventing unnecessary damage such as cracked teeth and neck injuries.
What to Look For
If you want to try a mouth protector that you can buy off the shelf in your drug store or sporting goods store, you’ll want to make an effort to get one that will fit you as best you can. If possible, it can help to take the item out of the packaging to see the size and the shape before you buy. Also read the directions to find out if you can trim the item to fit. Generally, a protector that covers most, if not all, of your teeth will be most likely to stay securely in place while you sleep. When you have a choice, a more rigid night guard, such as those made from acrylic, is apt to wear better than a softer plastic variety. The softer ones can move more easily and can also wear out quickly. You should also consider the guard’s bite pad. Those made from denser material will often hold up better and be more effective.
To find a dentist in your area who can custom fit you for a dental mouth guard, you may want to ask family or friends for recommendations. You can also do a search online. The American Dental Association and the American Dental Hygiene Association have directories of their members and this can be a good place to look in order to find someone highly trained and qualified in the dental profession. In addition, some websites also provide searchable directories of local practitioners, such as Dental Resources and Dental Care. These can be good places to start your search.
How to Care for Your Dental Guard
In order to get the best results from your mouth protector, you will need to good care of it. Most dentists recommend cleaning it every time you take it out or put it in. You can usually rinse it in cool water or with mouthwash, or brush it with toothpaste like you do your own teeth. Store the guard in a container that’s perforated so that it’s protected from damage but can still get air. It’s also essential to avoid hot water, direct sunlight or heated appliances that can cause it to melt or change shape. Finally, you should check the mouth guard periodically for tears or damage and if you notice any problems, it’s probably time for it to be replaced.
What It Costs
What you should spend on a night guard depends quite a bit on where you buy it and what type you select. The least expensive stock mouth pieces you can buy are usually between $5 and $10. The boil-it-yourself option can be found in the $10 to $20 range for a basic model, but you can also find more intricate versions online that include a kit that allow you to take a mold of your teeth at home and send it in to a dental lab to create the perfect fit based on your dimensions. These more customized versions can cost up to about $150, and will usually be more comfortable than the less expensive mouth guards, but still won’t live up a professional version when it comes to the perfect fit.
For the very best results, you may find it worth it to invest in a professional mouth guard from your dentist, who will be able to get a very accurate impression of your mouth. Your dentist will also be able to check the fit and to make adjustments that you simply can’t do on your own. The cost for such a professional mouth guard can start as low as $200 (usually including the fittings), but more typically you can expect to spend between $400 and $600. However, the cost can go up as high as $1,000. The more expensive guards are usually constructed with double walls (versus single), which offer the very best protection for nightly usage.
So the most basic over-the-counter dental guards can start at $10 or less, while a professional night guard from your dentist ranges from $200 on up to $1,000, with most people spending somewhere in the middle of that range.
Is It Covered?
You may wonder if you’re going to spend the money for a custom-fitted dental night guard whether your dental insurance will help to take a bite out of the expense. In fact, some plans do help to offset some of the price if you opt for a custom guard. Not all plans offer this benefit, though, so you should always check up front to find out exactly what coverage you have. Also keep in mind that you have to pay the entire amount yourself, what you save in pain and damage may make it well worth it anyway.
A Word of Caution
Finally, while most people can safely wear a dental night guard, the experts warn that those with sleep apnea may need to avoid them. Therefore, if you suffer from this condition or have any other sleep or breathing issues, always check with your doctor first before trying any type of mouth protector.