Dental Night Guard Side Effects

Night guards, also known as mouth guards, bite guards, or teeth protectors, play a crucial role in safeguarding our oral health. Night guards are protective devices that cover all or part of your teeth. They are primarily worn during sleep to prevent teeth grinding and clenching. You might hear them referred to as mouth guards or teeth protectors.

The decision to start wearing a night guard usually comes after a recommendation from a dentist, who may notice signs of bruxism during a routine dental examination. For many, the use of a night guard brings significant relief and serves as a preventive measure against more severe dental issues that can arise from unchecked teeth grinding, such as tooth fracture, loss, or severe wear, and TMJ disorders.

However, as with any medical or dental intervention, it’s important to be aware of potential side effects. While dental night guards are widely used and are beneficial for many, users can sometimes experience side effects ranging from minor discomfort to more significant issues related to jaw alignment and oral hygiene.

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In this article, we will delve deeper into what dental night guards are, and discuss the potential side effects that users should be aware of.

Why Use Night Guards?

  1. Bruxism: Bruxism is a condition where a person grinds, gnashes, or clenches his or her jaw muscles. It can occur during the day or at night.

Symptoms of Bruxism include:

  • Tooth wear and tear (enamel abrasion, decay, chips, cracks, and flattening)
  • Pain and tension in the jaw
  • Jaw locking, snapping, or dislocating
  • Tongue and inner-cheek indentations
  1. Preventing Damage: Night guards protect against tooth damage, gum recession, and promote better sleep.
  2. Sleep Apnea: While not the primary treatment for sleep apnea, night guards can benefit people with mild to moderate sleep apnea by keeping the airway open.
  3. Braces: If you grind your teeth at night and wear braces, a custom-fit night guard can protect your braces.
Why Use Night Guards?

Common Side Effects Of Using Dental Night Guard

Dental night guards are essential for protecting your teeth and alleviating symptoms related to teeth grinding (bruxism). However, like any medical device, they can have some side effects such as:

  1. Minor Discomfort: When you start using a night guard, you might experience minor discomfort or irritation simply because you’re not accustomed to wearing it. Over time, your mouth should adjust, and you may even find it strange to sleep without one.
  2. Irritation to Gums, Cheeks, or Tongue: If the guard doesn’t fit your teeth and gums well, it can irritate the surrounding areas. Your tongue or the insides of your cheeks may take time to get used to pressing against a fixed surface all night long.
  3. Pain or Soreness: Over-the-counter night guards can be problematic due to poor fit. If the guard is too small or thin, it may not effectively prevent teeth clenching. Additionally, an ill-fitting night guard can lead to gagging or even choking because of its instability in the mouth. This is especially relevant if you have bruxism-related TMJ disorders.
  4. Dry Mouth: Some users may experience dry mouth while wearing a night guard. This occurs because the guard creates a barrier between your upper and lower jaws, affecting saliva flow.
  5. Enamel Damage: Although rare, excessive wear or improper use of a night guard can potentially damage tooth enamel over time. Regular check-ups with your dentist can help monitor this.
  6. Jaw Pain: If the night guard doesn’t align properly with your bite, it can lead to jaw pain or exacerbate existing jaw issues.

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Remember that custom-made night guards, created by dentists based on molds of your teeth, tend to have fewer side effects because they provide a perfect fit. If you experience any persistent discomfort, consult your dentist for adjustments or alternative solutions.

Types Of Dental Night Guards

Types Of Dental Night Guards

Let’s look at the different types of night guards, each designed to address specific dental needs:

  1. Soft Night Guards: These guards are made from a soft, flexible material (usually silicone or rubber). Soft night guards are ideal for mild teeth grinding or clenching. They provide a cushioning effect and are comfortable to wear. They are gentle on the teeth and gums, making them suitable for sensitive mouths. However, they may wear down faster than other types due to their softness.
  2. Hard Night Guards: Hard night guards are typically made from acrylic or rigid plastic. These guards offer durability and protection against moderate to severe bruxism. Sturdy and long-lasting. They effectively prevent teeth from grinding against each other. However, some users find them less comfortable due to their rigidity.
  3. Dual Laminate Night Guards: These guards combine layers of soft and hard material. Dual laminate guards strike a balance between comfort and durability. They provide better protection than soft guards while remaining more comfortable than hard ones. However, they are slightly bulkier than single-layer guards.
  4. Custom-Fit Night Guards: Custom-fit guards are made specifically for an individual’s teeth. These guards offer the best fit and protection. They are tailored to your unique mouth shape, ensuring maximum comfort and effectiveness. They are more expensive than over-the-counter options.
  5. Boil-and-Bite Night Guards: These guards come in a standard shape and can be customized at home. Boil-and-bite guards adapt to your teeth after being softened in hot water. Affordable and better fitting than generic guards. They are not as precise as custom-made guards.
  6. Stock Night Guards: Stock guards are pre-made and available in various sizes. They provide basic protection but lack customization. They are not expensive and are readily available. However, they are often bulky and may not fit well.

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Remember to consult your dentist to determine the most suitable type of night guard based on your specific needs and the severity of your bruxism. Proper care and regular check-ups will ensure your night guard remains effective in safeguarding your teeth!

Solutions and Tips

Here are some solutions and tips to help you manage your dental night guard effectively:

  1. Proper Cleaning and Maintenance: Rinse your night guard thoroughly with cool water every morning after use. Regularly clean it using a mild soap or non-alcoholic mouthwash to prevent bacterial growth. Avoid using hot water, as it can distort the shape of the guard.
  2. Store it Safely: Keep your night guard in a protective case when not in use. Store it away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.
  3. Avoid Grinding or Clenching During the Day: Be mindful of daytime teeth grinding or clenching. Try to consciously relax your jaw muscles during stressful situations.
  4. Replace When Necessary: Over time, night guards may wear down or become less effective. Replace your guard if you notice signs of wear, cracks, or discomfort.
  5. Regular Dental Check-ups: Visit your dentist regularly to assess the condition of your night guard. Adjustments or replacements may be needed based on wear and tear.
  6. Custom-Fit Guards Are Worth It: If possible, invest in a custom-fit night guard made by a dentist. Custom guards provide optimal comfort and protection.
  7. Monitor for Side Effects: Pay attention to any discomfort, irritation, or jaw pain. Consult your dentist promptly if you experience persistent issues.

Remember that proper care and adherence to these tips will ensure your night guard remains effective in protecting your teeth and alleviating bruxism-related symptoms.


How do I clean my dental night guard?

Cleaning your dental night guard is essential to maintain its hygiene and prolong its lifespan. Here are some steps to keep your night guard clean:

  1. Rinse Immediately After Use: After removing the night guard in the morning, rinse it thoroughly with cool or lukewarm water. This helps remove saliva, food particles, and bacteria.
  2. Brush with Mild Soap or Toothpaste: Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and mild soap (such as liquid hand soap) or non-abrasive toothpaste. Gently brush the night guard to remove any remaining debris. Avoid using hot water, as it can warp the material.
  3. Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Do not use bleach, alcohol, or other harsh chemicals to clean your night guard. These can damage the material and affect its fit. Opt for gentle cleaning solutions.
  4. Soak in Denture Cleaner or Baking Soda Solution: To disinfect and remove stains, soak your night guard in a denture cleaner solution or a mixture of water and baking soda. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for denture cleaner usage. Rinse thoroughly after soaking.
  5. Avoid High Temperatures: Hot water can distort the shape of your night guard. Always use cool or lukewarm water. Avoid leaving the night guard in direct sunlight or near a heat source.
  6. Store Properly: When not in use, store your night guard in its protective case. This prevents dust, debris, and damage. Keep it away from pets, as they might mistake it for a chew toy.
  7. Regular Inspection: Check your night guard for signs of wear, cracks, or damage. If you notice any issues, consult your dentist for a replacement.

Remember that maintaining a clean night guard contributes to its effectiveness and your oral health. If you have any specific concerns or questions, consult your dentist for personalized advice.

How often should I replace my dental night guard?

The frequency of replacing your dental night guard depends on several factors, including the type of night guard, wear and tear, and your dentist’s recommendations. Here are some general guidelines:

  1. Standard Over-the-Counter Guards: These typically last around 6 months to 1 year. If you notice signs of wear, such as cracks or thinning, consider replacing it sooner.
  2. Boil-and-Bite Guards: These can last 6 months to 2 years. Regularly inspect for any changes in fit or comfort.
  3. Custom-Made Guards: Custom night guards, made by a dentist, tend to be more durable. With proper care, they can last 2 to 5 years or even longer.
  4. Signs It’s Time to Replace: Cracks, thinning, or rough edges. If it no longer fits snugly or feels uncomfortable. Proper cleaning helps, but if it persists, consider replacement.
  5. Consult Your Dentist: Regular dental check-ups are crucial. Your dentist will assess the condition of your night guard and recommend replacement based on wear and individual factors.

Remember, a well-maintained night guard is essential for protecting your teeth and managing conditions like bruxism (teeth grinding). If you have any doubts, consult your dentist for personalized advice on replacement intervals.

Can I wear a dental night guard during the day?

Wearing a dental night guard during the day is generally not recommended. Here’s why:

  1. Purpose of Night Guards: Dental night guards are primarily designed for nighttime use to protect your teeth from grinding (bruxism) or clenching. They provide a cushioning effect, preventing tooth damage and reducing muscle strain while you sleep.
  2. Daytime Wear Considerations:
    • Discomfort: Night guards are often bulkier and less comfortable than regular daytime mouthguards.
    • Speech Impediment: Wearing a night guard during the day may affect your speech, making it harder to communicate clearly.
    • Social Situations: It can be socially awkward to wear a night guard during daytime activities.
    • Increased Wear and Tear: Using the same guard 24/7 can lead to faster wear and tear, reducing its effectiveness.

If you need protection during the day (e.g., due to teeth clenching or sports), consider getting a custom-made daytime mouthguard. These are thinner, more comfortable, and suitable for daytime wear. Discuss your specific needs with your dentist to find the right solution.

Remember to consult your dentist before using any oral appliance during the day. They can guide you based on your individual needs and ensure optimal oral health.


Dental night guards are essential for managing teeth grinding (bruxism), but they can have side effects. Proper care, regular check-ups, and custom-fit options are crucial. Be mindful of discomfort, irritation, and jaw pain. Consult your dentist promptly if needed.

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