Occlusal Guard – What Is It And When Should I Wear One?

What Is An Occlusal Guard?

An occlusal guard is a horseshoe shaped piece of plastic which is worn over the teeth to protect them against damage caused by clenching or grinding.  It works by creating a physical barrier between your upper and lower teeth so that you bite against the plastic rather than wearing down your teeth.  Most people are unaware that they grind (also called bruxism) or clench their teeth as it usually happens when they are sleeping.  It is often a person’s partner who first notices that they are grinding their teeth.  People tend to go through phases of grinding their teeth, such as during times of stress.  It is during these times that you may need to wear an occlusal night guard to prevent doing permanent damage to your teeth.

When Should I Wear My Occlusal Guard?

Occlusal guards are usually only worn at night when people are not able to stop themselves from grinding or clenching their teeth.  If you are a severe grinder, your dentist may also recommend that you wear it during the day, but this is not usually required.  If you know that you only grind your teeth when you’re stressed you may only need to wear it occasionally, such as for a few weeks leading up to exams or any other stressful event.

What Is An Occlusal Guard Made Of?

An occlusal guard is made of clear acrylic. It may be either soft or hard acrylic depending on what your dentist recommends.  As it is only made of plastic, your occlusal guard may become cloudy and discolor over time, but this does not affect the functionality of the night guard.  Occlusal guards can be made for either the upper or lower teeth.

How Long Does An Occlusal Guard Last?

How long your night guard will last all depends on the severity of your teeth grinding.  While severe grinders may need to replace their occlusal guard every year, other people may not need to replace theirs for many years.

Dentist holding an occlusal guard

If the guard still fits your teeth, it will not need replacing until you have worn through the acrylic which makes the guard no longer effective.  An occlusal guard works forcing your upper and lower teeth apart to prevent them from wearing.  Sometimes if you haven’t worn your night guard for a while, your teeth may shift a little and the occlusal guard may no longer fit.  If this happens, take the occlusal guard to your dentist for advice.

Taking Care Of Your Occlusal Guard

When wearing your occlusal guard do not eat or drink anything other than water as this may discolor it.  After removing your occlusal guard in the morning, brush it with your toothbrush and rinse with cold water.  It is best not to use toothpaste to clean it as toothpaste is abrasive and may scratch the surface of the occlusal guard and make it appear cloudy.  Also, never rinse your occlusal guard with hot water as this can distort the shape and cause it to no longer fit.

Custom Made Occlusal Guard Price

The occlusal guard cost will of course vary greatly from dentist to dentist.  It can be an extremely worthwhile investment in the long run.  It may prevent you from needing more expensive dental work in the future caused by grinding, such as fillings or crowns to rebuild the teeth.  You can purchase night guards from a chemist, but they will not fit as well as a custom made one from your dentist and may fall out during the night.  Occlusal night guards made by your dentist are also much more comfortable to wear as they are less bulky.


Any information provided here is for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute advice from a qualified dental professional. Only qualified dental professionals can provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment based on your specific condition. No warranty is made with the information provided here.


  1. I keep my occlusal guard washed, dried, stored in the case out of the bathroom. I always brush before putting it in my mouth. It immediately began to turn green and looks like the discoloration is between the layers. The occlusal guard is custom made and I was not charged for it, so I really don’t want to take it back and ask. Also, wearing it has stopped my jaw pain. Can you tell me what would cause discoloration like this? Is it safe to keep wearing?

  2. I have been using a night guard for a week now. I purchased mine at CVS Pharmacy. It is a Doctor’s Choice $33.00 was the price. I can not believe the difference it has made for me. The first night I wore it to bed, I got up the next morning without a headache, jaw pain, ear pain and teeth pain. Now I am wondering how long I have been grinding my teeth and didn’t even realize it. I have contacted my dentist to get a custom OCCLUSAL GUARD made and hopefully my dental insurance will pay for it or at least pay a portion of the cost. Hopefully my custom guard will be thin enough to wear during the day cause I notice myself grinding my teeth during the day as well. Is there any risk in wearing it day and night?

Speak Your Mind