Once you reach a certain age, your dentist will invariably tell you it’s time to consider a night guard. It must be part of the standard dental playbook, and something that will probably cost you in the realm of $350 to $500. That’s a hefty fee for what is basically a slab of rubber that is designed to help you stop clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth while you sleep.
Dentists justify these prices because they are custom fitted and can be adjusted in the office, while DIY versions that you mold in hot water can be widely found for about $20. Avoid these, says Charlotte, North Carolina, dentist Erik Reitter. “You’re better off wearing nothing than wearing one that hasn’t been fitted properly. A badly fit night guard can change your bite.”
Remi is part of a new group of startups—including Cheeky, Chomper, and Pro Teeth Guard—that offer a middle option: You take impressions at home, mail them in, and get your night guard shipped to you, all without ever having to visit a dentist. Naturally, many offer a subscription service so you can get a fresh retainer on the regular (every three to six months or so), complete with discounted price.
At $149 for a single guard kit or $99 if you join the biannual club, Remi’s kit is among the cheapest of this group, though all of these services operate in roughly the same way. When the Remi kit arrives in the mail, unboxing reveals two sets of trays (one for large mouths, one for small) and several balls of blue and white molding clay. Following the careful instructions in the kit, you knead a blue and white ball together to activate it, roll the clay into tubes that fit in the trays of your choice, and pop the trays in your mouth (top and bottom teeth) for a few minutes until they nearly harden. Mail the finished trays back to Remi and your finished night guards arrive in a week or so.
This part of the process looks daunting, but it went smoothly in my testing despite a lot of drooling and the unavoidable fear that the trays would harden too quickly and get stuck in my mouth forever. It’s easy to see why Remi sends two sets of trays: The second set goes more smoothly than the first. Reitter notes that he doesn’t use these kinds of molds anymore; now he takes a 3D photographic scan instead.
After my trays arrived, what I noticed immediately is that the night guards were smaller than I expected—certainly more compact than the traditional, boxer-esque guard that I’ve been prescribed in the past. They’re also quite a bit harder; not the firmly rubbery character that you get with a typical night guard, but more like a stiff acrylic. While night guards come in a variety of formats, these were closer in size and stiffness to Invisalign retainers than a traditional device.
The fit was, well, so-so. The trays fit better in front than in the rear, and they tended to pop off my back teeth without provocation. And while I’m accustomed to sleeping with Invisalign retainers in, I found the Remi trays to be a little daunting in my mouth, flaring oddly outward near the gums—which contributed to the general looseness. I found I couldn’t really sleep with them in and ultimately experimented more with them during the day.
There’s a reason daytime use make sense, by the way, because Remi trays can also be used for teeth whitening, and Remi will sell you the whitening gel when you order the trays for an extra $26. Unfortunately I also had trouble with the whitening gel tubes, which came disconcertingly packaged in a Ziploc bag with the top haphazardly trimmed off to make it look more industrial. The gel was almost fully liquid, and it had a terrible tendency to blast out of the syringe and make a mess when I tried to apply it to the trays. Because of this, I only got a single tube to last three or four days, though the three-tube supply is supposed to be used over two weeks. I didn’t notice any significant change in my teeth whiteness after finishing the three tubes, but that’s about par for the course in my experience with these types of products.
The only real plus of the Remi kit over a professional dental night guard, aside from the price, is that you can do the whole thing at home, and in an era of Covid, that’s a big plus indeed. At the very least, I recommend the kit for those who want a temporary night guard but who aren’t ready to venture into a medical office yet—with the understanding that it won’t be perfect and that it will eventually need to be replaced by something more professional.