Looking for a night guard for bruxism and trying to determine if you should go with a custom-made night guard or just buy something off the shelf from your local store? Read on to discover which might be a best choice and why.

Understanding Bruxism:

Bruxism is when you clench, grind, or gnash your teeth together. Most people do this in their sleep (sleep bruxism), but some also do it when awake (awake bruxism). While occasionally grinding your teeth may not cause significant harm, chronic bruxism can lead to expensive dental and health issues. That’s why when we know a patient is engaging in bruxism, we recommend a custom-made night guard.  

Bruxism Night Guard:

One of the best ways to protect your teeth against the effects of bruxism is to get a custom-made night guard from one of our top Chicago dentists. Because a custom-made night guard is often more expensive than one you can buy off the shelf in the store, many patients often ask what the difference is and which is better. We’re going to answer some of those questions here. 

The primary differences between a custom-made night guard from a dentist and an over-the-counter (OTC) night guard from a store lie in their design, fit, and effectiveness. Here are the key distinctions:


Customization is important because you want your night guard to fit and not fall off. If it falls off, it doesn’t protect your teeth.

  • Dentist-Made Night Guard: Custom night guards are crafted based on impressions of your teeth. One of our top Chicago dentists will take precise molds of your dental anatomy, ensuring a snug fit. The customization allows for optimal protection and comfort.
  • Store-Bought Night Guard: OTC night guards are mass-produced and designed as one-size-fits-all or with minimal adjustability. While some may be moldable using hot water, they lack the individualized fit our custom-made guard provides.

Fit and Comfort:

Wearing a night guard can feel awkward at first. But you don’t want something that is uncomfortable and irritates your gums or shifts your teeth. Patients who come to us after using a store-bought night guard often complain of those very problems.

  • Dentist-Made Night Guard: The custom fit ensures that the night guard sits securely on your teeth, offering better comfort and minimizing the risk of dislodgment during sleep.
  • Store-Bought Night Guard: OTC guards may not provide a perfect fit, leading to discomfort, movement, and potential breathing difficulties. Ill-fitting guards can also be less effective in preventing teeth grinding.

Material Quality:

Custom-made night guards are available in hard or soft plastic. Because of the type of plastic and the process, they are often thinner and more durable than hot-water-molded store-bought versions. They usually last longer and don’t degrade as quickly in your mouth.

  • Dentist-Made Night Guard: Our dentists use high-quality materials that are durable, resistant to wear, and specifically chosen to provide effective protection against teeth grinding.
  • Store-Bought Night Guard: OTC guards are often made from less durable materials. While they may provide a temporary solution, they might wear out more quickly, requiring frequent replacement.


Custom-made night guards are made of higher quality materials, have a better fit, and are more durable – all of these factors make them more effective. You can’t benefit from the night guard if it falls off, is so uncomfortable you don’t wear it, or it degrades.

  • Dentist-Made Night Guard: The customized fit and precise design make our custom-made night guards more effective in preventing dental damage caused by bruxism. They are tailored to your unique bite and grinding patterns.
  • Store-Bought Night Guard: OTC guards may not offer the same level of protection due to their generic design. Users might experience limitations in terms of coverage and effectiveness, especially for severe cases of bruxism.


  • Dentist-Made Night Guard: Our dentists can adjust the night guard based on your feedback and any changes in your dental condition.
  • Store-Bought Night Guard: OTC guards generally lack the ability to be easily adjusted, limiting their adaptability to changes in your dental situation.


It’s important to remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or better yet, a dollar spent on prevention can be worth ten, a hundred, or even thousands spent on the cure. Our dentists aim to protect your teeth from bruxism and prevent costly procedures that can, and often do, result from teeth grinding.

  • Dentist-Made Night Guard: Custom night guards are typically more expensive than store-bought ones. However, the investment can be justified by the superior fit, comfort, and effectiveness. You need to understand that teeth grinding leads to the wearing down of your enamel, tooth fractures, and often crowns and implants. These procedures are much more expensive than those of any night guard.
  • Store-Bought Night Guard: OTC guards are more affordable but may require more frequent replacement. The need for multiple purchases over time might offset the initial cost savings.

While both dentist custom-made and store-bought night guards can provide some level of protection, a custom-made night guard from one of our dentists is superior due to its personalized fit, higher-quality materials, and effectiveness in addressing individual grinding patterns and dental conditions. 

If you are dealing with or concerned about bruxism or looking for a long-term solution, consult with one of our top Chicago dentists. We offer same-day emergency appointments, accept most dental insurances, and have thousands of satisfied patients.

Sources: Over-the-counter (OTC) bruxism splints available on the Internet