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DIY vs. Custom-Made Night Guards: Pros and Cons

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The Difference Between DIY & Custom-Made Night Guards

For those with bruxism, a night guard is typically recommended to help prevent tooth damage due to nighttime teeth grinding or jaw clenching. However, many people who have never used a night guard may not know what types of guards are available and how they work.

Generally, a DIY night guard is purchased over the counter anywhere from pharmacies to grocery stores. These night guards are either made as a one-size-fits-all or boil-and-bite mouthpiece, and the do-it-yourself part often comes with the latter option. On the other hand, custom-made night guards are made to fit an individual’s mouth and are created for customers in a dental lab.

DIY Night Guards Pros and Cons

Pro: Cost-Effective

DIY night guards are often sold for $20 or less, though the price range for these over-the-counter guards is about $5-100. If you buy one of these mouthguards online, you can also find options for free shipping.

Pro: Convenient

Over-the-counter night guards do not require you to take mouth impressions or imaging at a dental office or even at home, making the guard-creating process much quicker. With some of these types of guards, you can use them straight out of the box, while, for others, you may only need to quickly boil the guards and bite on them to create quick teeth impressions.

Pro: Immediate Availability

While you may need to wait weeks to receive a custom-fitted night guard, DIY night guards are typically available to get and use the same day. And, for these mouthguards found online, same-day, next-day, or two-day shipping may even be available.

Pro: No Dental Visits Required

Another reason that makes over-the-counter mouth guards convenient is that they do not require you to visit a dentist to make them. This not only saves you the money it would take for a dental appointment but also the time needed before and during an appointment.

Con: Less Effective Fit

Although there are a few pros to getting a DIY night guard, only some can properly fit every person’s mouth. One-size night guards only fit a few mouth shapes well, and even boil-and-bite ones tend to have a few things that could be improved regarding how snug they fit.

Con: May Not Provide Proper Protection

Because these mouthguards typically do not fit every person’s mouth well, they aren’t very likely to provide good protection from the effects of teeth grinding. In order to completely protect yourself from tooth damage due to your bruxism, you need to have a mouth guard that has padding in all the places where you grind or put pressure on your teeth the most, and only a custom-fitted night guard can address those points in your mouth.

Con: Potential Discomfort

With an ill-fitting DIY night guard, you may experience rough edges or areas of the mouthpiece that fit too tightly. This can not only cause discomfort, but also raises the risk of developing mouth sores.

Con: Shorter Lifespan

Mouth guards at home typically do not last as long as those in a dental lab. This is because the materials used may need higher quality, and the potentially poor fit can make it easier for the mouthpiece to break down quickly.

Custom-Made Night Guards Pros and Cons

Pro: Precise Fit

Custom-made night guards almost always fit better than DIY ones do. This is because, with a custom-made guard, impressions or digital images are taken of your mouth, and those impressions and images are then used in a lab to design a mouthpiece shaped to your teeth.

Pro: Maximum Protection

With a custom night guard, you may also be able to choose from a range of padding thicknesses, ensuring that your teeth get the most protection possible during wear. With DIY guards, you can only sometimes get a thick layer of padding between the top and bottom teeth, where pressure due to bruxism most commonly occurs.

Pro: Comfortable to Wear

Custom-fitted guards are typically more comfortable than DIY options because they tend to fit much better. This eliminates the possibility of mouth sores, scratches, and general discomfort that comes with a mouth guard that puts added pressure on different mouth areas.

Pro: Long-Lasting

While the intensity of teeth grinding impacts how long your mouth guards last, you can usually expect custom-made guards to last longer because they typically use premium materials, like acrylic plastic. If you get a harder night guard rather than a softer one, you can extend the guard’s life, and you sometimes have that option with DIY kinds.

Con: Higher Cost

While most DIY night guards only cost $20, most custom-made ones cost $200. However, even though these guards cost more, you may still need to pay more because many dental insurance plans cover night guard costs in whole or part.

Con: Requires Dental Appointments

With most custom-made mouthguards, you will need to visit a dentist to take impressions or images of your mouth, meaning you will need to take time for one or two dental appointments before you can get them. However, taking impressions and images is quick in most cases and does not cause any discomfort.

Con: Takes Time to Receive

While you can get a DIY night guard at a store and wear it the same day, custom-made models take a week to a month to create, and shipping may make it take even longer. Sometimes, you may receive a guard that does not fit properly even after your mouth impressions have been used, and that means you may need to repeat the impression and creation process, which takes even longer.

Con: Not Readily Available

Since custom night guards are usually received through a dental office, you may need help getting one quickly, especially if you do not already have a regular dentist to visit. Sometimes, manufacturers run into production delays, too, which happens less often with over-the-counter models.

The Bottom Line

While DIY mouth guards are generally cheaper and faster to receive than their custom-made counterparts, you can only ensure that your mouth guard will work for your unique mouth and teeth grinding intensity when choosing a custom-fitted night guard.

FAQs

Are DIY night guards safe?

Generally, DIY night guards are safe to wear, but this does not necessarily mean they will protect your teeth from damage due to teeth grinding. To keep your teeth safe from damage, you may need to wear a custom night guard that you know will fit you correctly.

Are custom night guards better?

For most people, a custom-made night guard provides more protection from bruxism because it usually fits better than over-the-counter models. They also tend to last longer and feel more comfortable; however, they are more expensive and may take a while to receive.           

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