Custom Mouthguards vs. Over-the-Counter Guards


A common question we hear from patients who are considering the purchase of custom mouthguards is, “Do you really need custom mouthguards, or will an over-the-counter guard work just as well?”

Well, this is a valid question, and the answer depends on what your personal preferences are regarding comfort level, price range, materials, and protection levels of mouthguards.

As a dentist, we always recommend custom mouthguards to optimize comfort and safety for our patients.

Let’s look at custom mouthguards vs. over-the-counter mouthguards.


Over-The-Counter Mouthguards

Over-the-counter mouthguards come out of their packaging as a smooth, pre-formed, u-shaped tray and cover the entire top row of teeth in order to prevent upper and lower teeth from grinding against each other. They are made of a plastic material that must be fitted to your specific teeth before it is comfortable to wear and work effectively.

How do you fit the mouthguard to your teeth without assistance from your dentist? The most common over-the-counter mouthguards are formed through a method called “boil and bite”. This means that, you boil the mouthguard as specified by the provided instructions. The plastic will become soft and pliable. Once the mouthguard heated, you will carefully place the guard in your mouth a bite down gently. A big downside to these guards are that the plastic is typically pretty thin, you have to take extreme precautions when molding the mouthguard to your teeth or it can be easily bitten through thus, being ruined. After the mouthguard is cooled, you may need to make adjustments so that the guard doesn’t irritate your gum. You will have to complete these adjustments carefully with sharp scissors or a razor blade.

The effectiveness of the over-the-counter guards depends on several factors:

  • If your jaw moves enough to move or dislodge the mouthguard during sleep the mouthguard will no longer protect your teeth.
  • If you clench your teeth extremely hard, you may end up biting through the plastic or breaking the mouthguard.

If this sounds like your teeth grinding habits, custom mouthguards will likely be the better option for you.

Custom Fit Mouthguards

Custom fit mouthguards are prescribed and created by a dentist from thermoplastic material and are based on a detailed mould taken of your mouth and teeth. Custom mouthguards are highly personalized. The gentle dentists at Thomas L. Anderson DDS and Associates can adjust the thickness of your mouthguard depending on your level of teeth grinding and clenching, and they are designed to fit perfectly in your mouth with little to no adjustments needed.

How are custom mouthguards made?

The first step will be to take an impression of your teeth. This is generally done using a dental impression material that forms to all the crevices of each tooth and creates an exact mould of your smile; unlike over-the-counter mouthguards which just form to the general shape of the tooth line. The personalized impression will then be sent to a lab where your custom fit mouthguard will be fabricated.

How effective are custom mouthguards?

Because custom mouthguards are so precisely made, they are able to provide you with optimal safety and comfort. This is something that over-the-counter mouthguards cannot ever achieve. Custom fit mouthguards provide durability and protection to your teeth that is simply said, the best!

If you are in need of a custom fit mouthguard  or would like to  join our dental home at the offices of Thomas L. Anderson and Associates as a new patient and schedule your dental check-up. We have three convenient locations within the Kansas City area, including Lee’s Summit / Independence, the Country Club Plaza and Downtown Kansas City. The gentle dentists and expert team at Thomas L. Anderson and Associates look forward to working with you to achieve proper oral health and a beautiful smile that will last a lifetime. If you have any questions about your dental insurance benefits, please do not hesitate to contact us.  We are happy to review your policy! Please give us a call today to schedule an appointment and become part of our dental family.