Q: I grind my teeth at night. Is it okay to use an off-the-shelf mouth guard?
A: Though they are cheaper than customized mouth guards made by a dentist, which can cost several hundred dollars, over-the-counter products don’t work well for most people with bruxism (teeth grinding). Moreover, if they don’t fit right, they could cause problems.
But you certainly can try one to see if it helps. Check with your dentist first if you have gum disease, mouth ulcers or any other dental problem that may make a mouth guard a bad idea.
Many different types of mouth guards are available. Look for one marketed specifically for bruxism, not a sports mouth guard. “Boil and bite” models (such as the Doctor’s NightGuard, sold at drugstores, or the BruxGuard, available from dentists) give a better fit than preformed over-thecounter devices.
Mouth guards, even custom-fitted ones, are not a cure for bruxism, however, because they don’t address the cause of the problem, which may be a misaligned bite or sleep apnea, for instance. Stress and anger may also be involved. Relaxation techniques may help.