If you are one of the more than 30 million Americans who grind their teeth, your dentist has probably recommended you buy a mouth guard. When it comes to the choice between buying a $10 to $50 custom-moldable or custom configurable mouth guard, and buying a $300 to $700 dentist-made mouth guard, you might not be surprised that most dentists recommend the dentist-made mouth guards. But who benefits more from these dentist-made mouth guards, you or your dentist?
In a recent phone survey conducted in the Boston area, various dentists were charging between $300 and $700 for exactly the same dentist-made mouth guard, so if you decide to go for a dentist-made mouth guard to keep your tooth grinding from wearing down your teeth, you might want to be a smart shopper and call around first to compare prices.
I inquired recently at the Yankee Dental Congress in Boston how much the dentist-made mouth guards cost the dentists to make. The various companies that make the systems used to make the guards said the price of the materials is about $12 per custom mouth guard. Add to that technician time, and they assured me “the cost is well under $100 – these are very high-profit items for dentists”. I was not shocked, but this does seem to present a possible conflict of interest for a dentist deciding whether to recommend you buy an inexpensive over-the-counter mouth guard or an expensive dentist-made mouth guard.
More and more brands of inexpensive custom-moldable or custom-configurable mouth guards have become available in recent years. Some of the units were designed by dentists who say they are just as good (or in some cases better) than the dentist-made mouth guards.
Any mouth guard could make your pain worse if the feel of it winds up feeding your tooth grinding and clenching habit and having you grind and clench more. Since dentists don’t offer money-back guarantees on the custom mouth guards they make, you might want to try one or two of the inexpensive over-the-counter versions before you plunk down the big bucks for a dentist-made mouth guard. You might also want to try biofeedback, which can be tried for free, to see if that can significantly reduce your tooth grinding and clenching and reduce or eliminate your pain. There are many other things you can try, and it makes sense to try first the things that can be tried for free or with a money-back guarantee.