Bruxism — or the unconscious clenching and grinding of the teeth — impacts more than 20% of all U.S. adults. If you wake up with facial, neck, shoulder, or ear pain, suffer from morning headaches, have popping jaws, or have noticed damage to your teeth, you might be one of them.
Mail-order night guards make alleviating these symptoms affordable and convenient. Sporting Smiles offers some of the most affordable direct-to-consumer night guards on the market. But are their guards the best fit for you? In this review, we’ll cover all the details you need to decide.
Table of Contents
How Do Night Guards Work?
If you clench or grind your teeth, the repetitive motion, stress, and friction come together to create or worsen a wide variety of health problems. While you can feel the effects of bruxism throughout your body, most of the pain and damage occurs in the teeth and temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Worn-down teeth, popping jaws, and cracked molars are some of the most common problems bruxism creates, but night guards can help rein them in.
Night guards cover the teeth — either partially or in full — preventing the bite surfaces of the lower arch from contacting those in the upper arch. Ranging from 1–3 millimeters in thickness, they also create enough space to lessen pressure on the jaw joints, thereby decreasing symptoms like headaches, neck pain, and ear pain.
While night guards don’t cure bruxism, they offer key relief that can improve your quality of life. But getting the most out of yours requires selecting the right model. Below are the four most common types of night guards sold by direct-to-consumer companies.
Soft Night Guards
Soft night guards are made from a somewhat gummy flexible material. As a result, many people find them to be the most comfortable model. They are usually about three millimeters thick to give them enough strength to stand up to mild bruxism. If your case is slightly more severe, they may tear too easily for you.
Single-Layer Hard Night Guards
Commonly called a retainer-style night guard, these use a single layer of very rigid plastic. In most cases, they will be a millimeter thick or less, making them the least bulky night guards (and also suitable for daytime wear). However, because of their thinness, they usually only work well for mild-to-moderate clenching and grinding.
Dual Laminate Night Guard
Sometimes, you need the best of both worlds. The dual laminate night guard has a hard, two-millimeter-thick outer layer surrounding a soft inner layer of about one millimeter. This gives these night guards the strength to stand up to moderate-to-severe bruxism while also being flexible enough to give you comfort.
Hard Flexible Night Guard
If you have severe bruxism, you’ll benefit from a night guard that has some give, but is still pretty rigid. Depending on the severity of your case, a dual-laminate guard may not work since the layers can start to wear down and come apart. This is where the hard flexible night guard comes in. It is usually three millimeters thick and dense enough that you cannot easily bite through it, but also flexible enough that it reduces stress.
No matter which type of night guard you get, you’ll need to replace it from time to time. Some people need a new guard every 3–6 months, while others can make theirs last up to five years. Always inspect your guard for damage before wearing it and replace it as soon as you see problems.
Is Sporting Smiles a Good Option: Our Perspective
Sporting Smiles is our number-three choice for mail-order night guards. They offer the lowest prices in the industry for a non-subscription service, design their guards to last up to five years, and have the most variety out of any major night guard company. Still, they aren’t perfect. To help ground your perspective, here are Sporting Smiles’ biggest pros and cons.
Sporting Smiles Advantages
- Maximum Variety: Sometimes, finding the right night guard is a Goldilocks adventure — you need to try a few to figure out what’s just right. Sporting Smiles offers six different night guard models, which is more than any other company we’ve reviewed.
- Low Prices: Subscription-based services have lower prices per guard, but since you’re locked into buying multiple guards per year, Sporting Smiles is often more affordable. If you don’t need frequent replacements, they might be the best value for you.
- Solid Reorder Discounts: Sporting Smiles further closes the gap on subscription services with their reorder discount — up to 35% off!
- Rush Option: If you need your night guard quickly, you can speed up shipping and processing for just $35. This delivers your night guard in about 15 days rather than the usual 30.
Sporting Smiles Disadvantages
- Weaker Refund Policy: Sporting Smiles has a warranty, but it emphasizes refinements over refunds. Their 100% satisfaction guarantee mentions refunds but primarily covers corrections.
- Brief Warranty: Most mail-order night guard companies offer a 60-day warranty, and some extend it up to six months. Sporting Smiles has a 30-day warranty, so they fall short of the industry standard.
- New Molds: Sporting Smiles says they will keep your molds on file for one year, and they extend this by another year every time you place a new order. But given their guards can last up to five years, you might not reorder within this timeframe.
Who Is a Good Match for Sporting Smiles?
If you want maximum variety, low prices, and the option to get your night guard in a hurry, Sporting Smiles is likely a great fit for you. Just keep in mind that their warranty and refund policies are a little weaker than their competitors.
There’s one universal must-have feature for night guards — quality. If it isn’t getting the job done, it isn’t a good investment. Luckily, Sporting Smiles does a great job of helping customers manage their bruxism.
Sporting Smiles has been in business since 2009, so they’re highly experienced.
This makes them one of the oldest direct-to-consumer night guard companies operating today. As such, they’ve long been the innovators, pioneering such concepts as universal fit impression trays and taking 3D scans of dental molds rather than keeping the physical impression on file.
With more than a decade in business, they have a lot of experience that they put to work for you. They really understand the nuances of night guard design and how to make great ones. This goes a long way towards ensuring you receive a quality product.
They design their night guards to last anywhere from one to five years.
Your guard’s longevity depends on the model you choose, your level of bruxism, and how well you care for it. If you purchase the right night guard and treat it well, it should last a minimum of one year. When you consider that many companies design theirs to be replaced every 3–6 months, this means Sporting Smiles lets you rely on a single purchase for much longer.
Sporting Smiles uses high-quality dental plastic that is customized for each night guard model.
Each model has the ideal level of flexibility and thickness for the type of bruxism it aims to treat. This means the plastic varies between guards, but all of them (and all other Sporting Smiles products) are BPA, BPS, DEHP, and latex-free.
You want the best night guard that money can buy — or at least the best one your money can buy. Not all night guards are budget-friendly, but Sporting Smiles offers some of the best prices in the industry.
Sporting Smiles has the lowest prices per night guard outside of subscription services.
Their night guards cost $90–$105, depending on which model you purchase. Most single-purchase mail-order night guards are $40–$100 more, so Sporting Smiles represents significant savings, especially considering you aren’t sacrificing quality to get it.
Technically, subscription-based services charge less per aligner, but they’re more expensive over the entire year. To put this into perspective, let’s consider two top night guard subscriptions: ClearClub and Cheeky. ClearClub charges just $45–$65 per guard — but that’s if you replace your guards every three months. This means you’ll be paying $180–$260 per year. Cheeky costs $219 per year if you pay for the full year up front. If you go with quarterly payments, this increases to $276.
So, even if you go with the most expensive Sporting Smiles night guard at $105, over the course of a year, you will save $75–$171 compared to the seemingly cheaper subscription services.
They further close the gap on subscription options by offering reorder discounts.
While their reorder discount varies, it can be as high as 35% off. This significantly reduces the cost of their night guards, getting them close to the per-guard range of subscription services. All things considered, unless you are really attached to the idea of a fresh night guard every few months, Sporting Smiles offers the better value.
You can use your HSA and FSA funds to purchase Sporting Smiles products.
When checking out, just use your HSA or FSA credit card as your method of payment. If this doesn’t work, you just contact Sporting Smiles and they will email you an itemized receipt. Then submit that to your HSA or FSA administrator and apply for reimbursement.
You’re a busy adult; the last thing you want to do is complicate your life just to use night guards — that stress could make your bruxism worse! Luckily, Sporting Smiles is as simple to use as any other night guard, and even comes with a few features that maximize its convenience.
Taking molds can be a bit difficult, but their universal fit tray makes it a little easier.
We’ll be honest: taking your own impressions is not the easiest thing in the world. Unless you’ve done it before, anticipate a learning curve. However, this is not unique to Sporting Smiles; all remote night guard companies ask customers to create molds of their own teeth. We suggest you watch tutorials, including the one from Sporting Smiles, before attempting yours.
Sporting Smiles makes this process easier than their competitors, though, thanks to their dual-arch adjustable dental impression tray, which adjusts to all mouth sizes. They patented it back in 2011 with the goal of simplifying the impression process for their customers. Since many impression errors come down to poorly fitting trays, this helps eliminate roadblocks between you and the night guard you need.
Sporting Smiles will accept teeth molds made by a dentist rather than with their impression kit.
If you find the impression kit to be a little too intimidating, Sporting Smiles is one of the only companies that also accepts molds from your dentist. Just keep in mind that they do not offer warranties on guards made with kits other than their own.
Something unique to Sporting Smiles is their 3D digital scans of your teeth molds.
This might not sound like such a big deal, but it actually is a huge improvement over storing physical impressions. With physical impressions, the putty loses moisture over time, eventually cracking and crumbling. Once that happens, they’re unusable — and this process can start as soon as twelve months after you created the impressions.
3D scans last a lifetime. Since 2021, Sporting Smiles offers you the option to get your physical molds scanned and then uploaded to their secure database. This way, your molds remain on file no matter the condition of the physical impressions. Just keep in mind that this is an opt-in service; if you stick with the physical molds, they only stay on file for a year.
Most people receive their night guards within 2–3 weeks.
Once you place your order, your impression kit should arrive within 2–3 business days. The speed of the next step is up to you; if you take your impressions and ship them off the same day you get your kit, they should arrive back at Sporting Smiles within 2–3 business days.
From there, it takes about 10–15 business days to make and ship the guard, then another 2–3 business days for you to receive it. This means most people get their guard somewhere between 2 and 3 weeks after placing their order. If this wait is too long for you, you can cut it down by selecting the RUSH option and paying an extra $35.
There is no one night guard that works perfectly for everyone. Beyond fitting the shape of your teeth, night guards also need to match your level of bruxism. This means getting the right material and thickness.
Sporting Smiles offers more night guard models than any other company.
Most companies have 3–4 different models; Sporting Smiles has 6. This makes it much easier to find your ideal fit. Their night guard models are:
- Flexible Super Hard: This is their strongest mouthguard, made from super-hard yet flexible three-millimeter plastic. It’s designed to protect your teeth and jaw from severe teeth grinding and clenching.
- Flexible Hard Back Cut: This is pretty similar to the Flexible Super Hard option, but it’s lower-profile and more comfortable to wear. The cut also makes it less noticeable to those around you.
- Dual Laminate Guard: This night guard has a durable outer layer combined with a flexible inner one. It’s three millimeters thick and best for moderate bruxism.
- Dual Laminate Back Cut: This guard uses the same material as the Dual Laminate Guard but has a unique cut that offers greater comfort and less visibility.
- Soft Grinding Guard: While harder guards stand up to more severe bruxism, softer ones are usually more comfortable at night. This guard is three millimeters thick and does well with pretty much all levels of clenching but only light grinding.
- Hard Grinding Guard: This guard is designed for mild-to-moderate bruxism. Its rigidness makes it pretty durable, but it’s only one millimeter thick, so it breaks easier under pressure than other models.
One of their night guard models works for both daytime and nighttime wear.
Specifically, the Hard Grinding Guard. Since it is thin, it interferes less with proper speech. If you have chronic daytime bruxism, or just grind and clench on occasion when stressed, this guard can offer you protection without making it obvious you are wearing it.
In addition to night guards, they offer other customized dental products.
These include retainers, whitening trays, and sports mouth guards — and they’re all tailored to your dental anatomy, just like the night guards. And if you use their impression kit once, they can use the same mold to make any other product you want.
Quality products are at the center of a good customer experience, but there are lots of little details that pad it out. From customer service to guarantees, if you don’t get the right support and assurances, you might be disappointed with your purchase. Luckily, this is rare with Sporting Smiles.
Sporting Smiles backs their products with a 30-day “perfect fit” guarantee.
That timeframe is short compared to other companies’ guarantees. However, it is pretty comprehensive. According to their website, they guarantee 100% satisfaction; if for any reason something isn’t right about your night guards, they’ll make you a new product for free or refund the product price.
On top of this, they have a 30-day warranty. However, the language seems to indicate that it is pretty much the same as their guarantee — if you have an issue, they promise to provide a solution. In both cases, email the company at Info@SportingSmiles.com and give them as much detailed information as possible about your problem.
Their customer service department is helpful and has solid availability.
According to existing customers, and based on our experience while researching, the Sporting Smiles customer service team is pretty great. They’re friendly, informed, and if they don’t have the answer, they’ll find it for you.
You can reach them between 8 am and 4 pm, Monday through Friday. Those hours are pretty great, but the lack of weekend availability isn’t great. Plus, they don’t have many communication channels to get in touch. While most companies have phone, email, contact form, and web chat options, Sporting Smiles only offers phone, email, and a contact form. They also state that it can take 24 hours for them to answer.
The Sporting Smiles website contains plenty of customer education.
This somewhat makes up for their excessive response time since you can find the answers to many common questions right on the website. Their blog covers a ton of topics about night guards and bruxism, and it can answer many of those little questions you’ve been afraid to ask.
Best Alternatives to Sporting Smiles
Chomper Labs goes farther than most other brands to ensure quality and satisfaction. Their Perfect Fit Promise guarantees a well-fitting guard, while their 100-Day Guarantee provides full refunds within the first 100 days and their Grind-Free Warranty replaces broken guards in the first six months. They offer four different models, manufactured with various materials and varying thicknesses. They’re not the cheapest option out there, but we think their dedication to quality and customer support is well worth it.
$45–$65 every three months (or $135-$155 with a one-time purchase)
ClearClub is a subscription-based night guard service, though you can make a one-time purchase if that’s better for you. When you purchase a subscription, ClearClub offers some of the best prices per guard on the market today. They have five different night guard options — though most are only different in terms of color and patterns — and let you customize the thickness on some. All their materials are FDA-approved, non-allergenic, latex-free, and BPA-free, and they back their guards with a 60-day, 100% satisfaction guarantee.
Pro Teeth Guard
Pro Teeth Guard is a professional dental lab that works directly with dentists — and now, they also offer their night guards directly to consumers. This means you get dentist-quality guards without dentist-office prices. They have four models to choose from and one of the best guarantees available: if you aren’t 100% satisfied at the end of 60 days, they will refund you 110% of the cost.
$219 per year for four guards (or $139 with a one-time purchase)
Cheeky is a subscription-based service, and their subscription pricing breaks down to just $54.75 per guard if you sign up for four guards a year and pay up front. They accept both insurance and FSA and HSA funds, so you can reduce this cost even further. They have just two night guard models — hard and soft — which makes getting a perfect fit a little difficult, but not impossible.
Is Sporting Smiles Right for You?
Sporting Smiles stands out from the competition because it offers the most variety of any night guard company. With six different models, it’s easy to find the night guard that fits your needs and preferences. They have the lowest prices for single-purchase guards in the industry, and with their reorder discount, they come close to matching the prices of subscription services as well.
Sporting Smiles has a lot going for it, but it might not be perfect for you. Read about our top five choices for mail-order night guards to see what other companies have to offer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I really save a lot of money if I get mail-order night guards instead of buying from my dentist?
It depends on what you consider a lot of money. There isn’t a set amount you’ll save because every remote company and every dentist charges different prices. In most cases, you’ll save at least $120, but depending on where you live and the typical cost of night guards in your area, you might save upwards of $800.
Is it OK to wear my night guard while awake?
Absolutely! But you need to purchase a guard designed for daytime wear — one thin enough that it doesn’t have a major impact on your speech and pretty rigid as well. Some companies specifically sell day guards, while others just suggest their thinnest and firmest night guard for daytime wear.
Can I wear one night guard on my top teeth and one on the bottom?
You can, but it’s never really necessary. And since it can be dangerous in certain cases, we’d caution against it. Night guards reduce pressure on the jaw joints by creating 1–3 millimeters of space between the teeth, keeping the jaw joint slightly open. They also prevent the teeth from touching. Extra space might sound like a good idea, but if you force your jaw open too far, it creates greater stress on the joint. It’s better to just wear one.
How can I know if I have bruxism?
You can only get an official diagnosis by seeing a dentist. However, it is important to know what signs to look for. Contact a dentist if you notice:
- Changes to the shape or texture of your teeth, especially your molars.
- Cracks in your teeth, especially your molars.
- Chronic or repeating pain in the jaw and ears when you chew or yawn.
- Popping sounds in your jaw when you chew, speak, or yawn.
- Chronic headaches, neck pain, or shoulder pain.
- Feeling tired during the day.
- Sensitivity in your teeth.
What caused my bruxism?
Bruxism has a variety of causes, and unless yours is related to a facial injury, you might not be able to pinpoint the issue. In most cases, it stems from mental and emotional stress or physical pain — or a combination of the two.
Can’t I just use a sports guard instead of a night guard?
It’s tempting because they are typically more affordable and widely available. Still, sports guards are not good alternatives to night guards. First, the materials aren’t right. They are designed to protect you from a blow to the mouth or head, preventing your teeth from breaking or from snapping against each other. Second, the thickness is wrong. Sports guards are often large enough that you cannot close your lips — something you probably don’t want to deal with all night.
What types of night guards are available?
Most companies offer three different types — hard, soft, and hybrid. However, some, like Sporting Smiles, offer up to six. This can make selecting a night guard feel intimidating, but it’s actually a great thing. A variety of options makes it easier to get the ideal combination of firmness and thickness.
How thick can night guards be?
In rare cases, you can find them under a millimeter in thickness. Most companies start with one millimeter as their thinnest option, and every company we reviewed tops out at three millimeters since this is the limit on what they say is comfortable and safe.
Do night guards cure TMJ?
Temporomandibular joint disorders — often called TMJ — are complex. Sometimes, preventing clenching and grinding is enough to release the stress on your jaw joints and stop all symptoms, effectively “curing” TMJ. In other cases, the cause runs much deeper. Even in complex cases, night guards might lessen symptoms, but need to be part of an overall treatment plan.
Are there any risks with wearing night guards?
Assuming your night guard is properly made, there aren’t many. However, because they provide a stimulating surface to grind and clench against, some people’s bruxism gets worse instead of better. Additionally, some people suck soft night guards against the teeth, which can cause pain and even tooth shifting. It’s important to take things day by day to see how your night guard works for you.