Mouthguards for Teeth Grinding
Our Guide to Using a Mouth Guard to Stop Teeth Grinding
If you grind your teeth at night, a mouth guard can be an inexpensive and effective way to stop you from damaging your teeth. Also called a dental guard or night guard, it can help to relieve teeth grinding symptoms such as jaw pain, headaches and disrupted sleep.
In our ultimate guide to using a mouth guard we’ll look at why people grind their teeth in their sleep; the benefits and safety of using a mouth guard; how to choose, mould and clean a mouth guard; and some tips on getting used to using a mouth guard at night.
Reasons You Grind Your Teeth at Night
Sleep bruxism is the medical term for grinding and clenching your teeth at night. The reason for teeth grinding in our sleep isn’t always clear, but some possible causes include:
Stress and Anxiety
Studies have linked stress and bruxism, including work stress and an increased likelihood of grinding your teeth at night. Nearly 70% of teeth grinding and jaw clenching is due to stress and anxiety.
Research consistently shows that sleep bruxism is more common in people who have an existing sleep disorder, such as snoring or obstructive sleep apnoea. You are also more likely to grind your teeth at night if you:
- talk or mumble in your sleep
- see or hear things that aren’t there when partially conscious
- experience sleep paralysis (temporarily not being able to move or speak when falling asleep or waking up)
- act out violently in your sleep (i.e. kicking or punching)
A Side Effect of Medication
Grinding the teeth can be a side effect of some medications, including certain antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and medications for neurological conditions like Parkinson's Disease.
Smoking, drinking caffeinated beverages, heavy alcohol consumption, and using recreational drugs all increase the risk of sleep bruxism. These factors can also worsen teeth grinding.
Sleep bruxism in children is quite common, but many outgrow it. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 8% of adults and 14 – 20% of children under 11 suffer from sleep-related teeth grinding.
Some people also experience daytime or “awake” bruxism. While daytime grinding is uncommon, approximately 10% of the population clench their teeth while awake, but this number is even higher for those in high-stress careers such as being a police officer.
Benefits of Using a Mouth Guard for Teeth Grinding
A mouth guard is a great way to stop grinding your teeth during sleep. Some of the benefits of using a mouth guard for sleep-related teeth grinding and clenching include:
Reduced Jaw and Facial Pain
Mouth guards help to relax the jaw muscles and even out the pressure across your jaw to prevent clenching. This will reduce the amount of tension in your face and jaw muscles and provide you with teeth grinding pain relief.
Protecting Your Teeth from Damage
Mouth guards work by forming a barrier between your teeth, cushioning them from rubbing together and preventing chipped teeth, damaged enamel or broken fillings.
Research has shown that those with bruxism are three times more likely to suffer from headaches than those without bruxism. This is likely due to tightness in the jaw muscles caused by grinding and clenching.
A night guard for teeth clenching helps the muscles of your jaw to relax and prevent headaches.
A mouth guard for sleeping may also help to reduce snoring, benefitting both you and your partner.
Is it Safe to Use a Mouth Guard?
Mouth guards are generally safe to use for most people, but it’s important you find a high-quality product. Most dental night guard side effects, such as irritation or the guard moving around in your sleep, can be avoided by choosing the right guard for your mouth. Here are some tips on choosing a mouth guard to stop teeth grinding and clenching in your sleep.
How to Choose a Mouthguard to Stop Teeth Grinding
One of the main things you’ll be looking for in a mouth guard is the comfort, as you’ll have it in for eight hours at a time. Adjustable and mouldable mouth guards are generally quite comfortable because they are soft and can be adapted to fit your mouth.
To ensure the greatest comfort and effectiveness, make sure to follow the instructions for adjusting or moulding the guard. Also, consider the size of the guard. For those with smaller mouths make sure that the guard won’t be too big to be comfortable.
Read reviews of the products you are considering and see what other users have to say about the guard. Often the best information you get about a product is by reading about how it’s worked for others with sleep bruxism.
Another thing you’ll want to consider is cost. Luckily, most commercial mouth guards are inexpensive compared to a custom-built guard from your dentist. Mouth guards you purchase at the pharmacy or online usually cost around £10 - £50, while a custom-built guard or splint can cost in the hundreds of pounds and generally isn’t covered under the NHS or by dental insurance.
According to the NHS, hard plastic mouth splints made by the dentist are no more effective than mouth guards at reducing the symptoms of teeth grinding.
You should also consider what the material the mouth guard is made of and if it’s most suitable for your comfort and the severity of your bruxism. Soft night guards are good for those with mild cases of teeth grinding, while those with severe bruxism may benefit more from a dual laminate or acrylic mouth guard as they are more durable.
How to Mould a ‘Boil and Bite’ Mouth Guard
While instructions may vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer, the basic steps to moulding a mouth guard to your teeth are as follows:
Step 1 – Prepare boiling water.
Step 2 – Carefully pour boiling water into a bowl or cup and allow it to cool for 30 seconds.
Step 3 – Place the guard in the water, making sure it’s completely submerged.
Step 4 – Remove the guard after approximately 30 – 45 seconds. Remember to be careful; the water is hot.
Step 5 – Make sure the guard isn’t too hot before you insert it into your mouth. If it’s a comfortable temperature, insert the guard into your mouth (on your top teeth) and adjust it so that it is central and evenly spread.
Bit down firmly on the guard and suck the air out of the mouthpiece. At the same time use your tongue and lips to press against the guard to ensure a tight, yet comfortable fit.
You can also use your fingers to press against your lips, cheeks and the guard itself to ensure a custom fit.
Step 6 – Once fully moulded, remove the guard and leave it to cool. If you need to remould simply pop the guard back into the boiled water so it can reset and follow the same process again.
How to Care for Your Mouth Guard
It’s important that you take care of your mouth guard and keep it clean. Here’s how to get the most life out of your guard:
- Rinse your mouth guard with cold water or mouthwash each time you put it in or take it out of your mouth.
- Clean your mouthguard with toothpaste and a toothbrush after each use.
- Store your mouth guard in a hard container, but make sure it has ventilation. This not only protects it from your dog using it as a chew toy and it also allows it to dry out properly. Don’t forget to clean your storage container regularly as well.
- Check your mouth guard for wear and tear from time to time. If it has holes or other signs of damage, replace it. Manufacturers of most dental guards advise they be replaced every 6 – 12 months.
Tips for Wearing a Mouth Guard at Night
A mouth guard is a great way to stop teeth grinding at night, but you may find it takes a bit of getting used to in the beginning.
- Put the mouth guard in as close to falling asleep as possible. This should help minimise any discomfort before sleep.
- Keep your guard clean. You’ll be less likely to want to use it if it smells or looks dirty.
- Be patient. It may take a few weeks to a month to get used to wearing a mouth guard when you sleep. But if you stick with it can treat your bruxism naturally and help alleviate teeth grinding pain.
In addition to using a mouth guard during sleep, treatment for bruxism will also depend on the likely cause of your condition.
If you believe it is caused by stress or anxiety it may be beneficial to try relaxation techniques, especially before bed. Cutting back on alcohol and caffeinated beverages and quitting smoking can also help to reduce teeth grinding.