Teeth Grinding Information

How to Buy a Custom Mouth Guard

Shopping for a custom-fitted night mouth guard can be confusing. There are several options available now, with price ranges from less than $100 to more than $1,000.

This page will attempt to fully explain your options when shopping for a custom mouthguard, to help you choose the right one for you at a price that’s in your budget.

First, let’s explain what a custom mouth guard is.
A custom-fitted mouth guard is literally a semi-soft piece of plastic that is molded to fit your teeth and mouth precisely. No two are alike, as they are created by a lab to conform to impressions of your teeth sent to them. The purpose of any mouth guard is to create a cushioning barrier between your upper and lower teeth where the grinding occurs. You may still bite down or try to move your jaw unconsciously, but the mouth guard both absorbs much of the pressure while restricting the side-to-side or front-to-back movement of your jaw. Today’s mouth guards are designed to be light weight and comfortable, and they do not typically restrict your ability to talk when in place.

Custom mouth guards are generally much “thinner” than off-the-shelf mouth guards that are usually designed for protection while playing sports. The thickness of the molded mouth guard can be from .08 inch to .15 inch thick. Additionally, they are more comfortable to wear than an inexpensive mouthguard, and are molded to fit your teeth better than you can achieve by softening a standard mouth guard in boiling water.

No matter how you purchase your custom mouth guard, it will take some time to manufacture, usually 5-10 days. Custom mouth guards are created in the labs of the manufacturers – not in your dentist’s office, and not in your own home.

Option 1: Buy a custom mouth guard from your dentist.
Many people go to their dentist first when they discover they are grinding their teeth, and the dentist then confirms they have bruxism. Or, commonly, the sufferer may not even know they are grinding his or her teeth, but is alerted to it by their dentist during a routine office visit. Either way, the dentist will suggest you act on the problem quickly, and often he or she recommends a custom-fitted mouth guard for use at night. This ensures you’ll have an effective way to combat the problem while making a nice profit for the dentist.

Pros:

  • The dentist may guide you to try another treatment for bruxism if he or she feels it may be a better option for you;
  • Dentist takes your teeth impressions in his or her office, achieving a near 100% success rate in producing a quality impression (to ensure the custom mouth guard will fit correctly);
  • On receiving the finished mouth guard from the lab, the dentist instructs you on how to use it and can personally answer your questions during the office visit where you receive the guard;
  • You can be sure you are receiving the highest-quality custom mouth guard;
  • The custom mouth guard may be partially or completely covered by your dental insurance.

Cons:

  • Cost: A dentist typically pays around $60-80 to have your mouth guard made, but can then charge you from $200 to over $1,000 for it, plus the cost of the office visit to take the impressions. If not covered by your insurance, this can be a major cost;
  • Requires one or more office visits to take the impressions and pick up the mouth guard. This obviously takes some amount of time from work and other activities. Problems scheduling your appointment(s) may increase the amount of time until you finally are able to use the mouth guard;
  • Your dentist is the guard lab’s customer, not you, and he or she may not provide a warranty on the mouth guard in case it does not relieve your symptoms or does not fit correctly.

Option 2: Order a mouth guard fitting kit and have the guard shipped directly to you.
An increasingly popular method of obtaining a custom mouth guard these days is to order a kit, usually from an online store or “dental lab,” which contains everything you need to have a mouth guard manufactured just for you. There are a number of companies competing for your business in this industry. They will send you a package in the mail containing an impression kit that lets you make molds of your own teeth. You then send the mold back to the lab where they manufacture the mouth guard and ship it to your door, completely bypassing your dentist.

Pros:

  • Cost: Total cost is usually $100 or less, including all shipping costs;
  • Speed: Although the lab you’ll deal with is often the same lab that may make a mouth guard if you purchased from your dentist, you can save the time of scheduling office visit(s) to have impressions taken and receive your guard, meaning you can have your guard, start to finish, in less than 10 days
  • The competitiveness in the industry often means great warranties are offered, often 100% refund within 6 months if it does not solve your teeth grinding problem (pains, etc.) – not just if the guard doesn’t fit right.

Cons:

  • By removing your dentist from the process, you won’t have his or her expertise to rely on in ensuring a mouth guard is the right option for you;
  • The impression success rate for creating your own impressions is less than 90%, meaning that 1 in 10 customers receive a mouth guard that doesn’t fit correctly and may need to be re-made;
  • Costs for do-it-yourself custom mouth guards are less likely to be covered by your insurance;
  • As with anything you buy over the phone or online, there is less assurance that what you will receive will live up to your expectations. You can’t blame your dentist if something goes wrong.

We hope that the above information helps you decide whether or not you’d like to try the custom mouth guard route, and if so, helps you choose the option that best fits your lifestyle, schedule, and budget.

Sources cited:

  • http://totalteethcare.com/night-guards.html
  • http://www.totalgard.com/clenching_grinding.html
  • http://www.nightguardlab.com/
Page last updated: 2007