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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Night Guards

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Having questions when choosing a dentist is natural! After all, your oral health is an important part of your overall health. Here is a list of some of the most common questions we receive. If you do not see yours listed below, please give us a call. We look forward to hearing from you.

Night Guards

woman smiling | dentist in gretna la Night guards a generally a hard acrylic or softer plastic that is custom-formed to your mouth. You may wear a night guard if you clench and grind your teeth at night or if you have many crowns in your mouth that need to be protected.

Night guards serve two functions. First, they should help protect your teeth at night time when you can clench up to three times as hard as during when you are awake. Second, they should help relax your muscles during the night by engaging your muscle reflexes from your teeth. 


Tooth protection is relatively straight forward and makes sense. Night guards cover either the upper or lower teeth and prevent the opposite side from wearing into the side that the night guard is protected. While many night guards are hard, the acrylic is not as hard a tooth meaning that the night guard will wear down instead of your teeth. A well used night guard may only last a few years, and I've seen some only last six months. However, replacing a night guard on a regular basis is still much cheaper and less painful than having a broken tooth which is why most people opt to replace it on a regular basis.

Muscle Relaxation

Now this one isn't as obvious to most people, but hard night guards can relax your jaw muscles. To prove it, try this experiment:

  1. Clench down on your back teeth as hard as you can. Relax after 10 seconds.
  2. Clench down on your front teeth as hard as you can. Relax after 10 seconds

Now you might have noticed that you can't clench down on your front teeth nearly as hard as on your back teeth. This is a reflex that helps prevent you from hurting your front teeth. A hard night guard helps engage this reflex when you are grinding at night time which helps relax your muscles.  


Night guards are usually between 1 mm to 5 mm thick (1/20 to 1/5 of an inch). Generally, they are thicker in the front than in the back as the jaw acts like a hinge where the back Night Guard | Gretna LA Dentistteeth separate less than the front teeth upon opening. Usually when people ask us how thick they are, they want to know if they are comfortable. We find that custom made night guards can be very comfortable to wear when they are made and adjusted properly. Sometimes after being fitted you will need to return for another appointment as your jaw will adapt to them.

The picture shown to the right is a typical night guard. While it looks thick, half of the height is where the teeth fit in. For this patient, we made a lower night guard as it fit better with her teeth. After she started wearing it, she found her jaw more relaxed in the morning and her teeth didn't feel as sensitive as she stopped grinding as hard at night.

woman smiling on couch | gretna la dentist A hard night guard is proven to be the better option for most patients. The reason is that a soft night guard makes the mouth and muscles want to chew on it at night time as if it were a piece of gum. This chewing can leave the mouth sore the next morning. Hard night guards also generally last longer than soft night guards as hard ones can take more of a beating.

However, some patients do not find hard night guards comfortable and will not wear them. For these patients, soft night guards might make sense as the guard is still protecting the teeth. Generally, for these patients, we pay extra close attention for the first few weeks to make sure that the jaw and the jaw muscles are adapting well to the mouth guard.

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