Mouth guards are coverings worn over teeth, and often used to protect teeth from injury from teeth grinding and during sports.
There are three types of mouth guards:
1. Stock mouth guards are preformed and come ready to wear. They are inexpensive and can be bought at most sporting good stores and department stores. However, little can be done to adjust their fit, they are bulky, make breathing and talking difficult, and they provide little or no protection. Dentists do not recommend their use.
2. Boil and bite mouth guards also can be bought at many sporting goods stores and may offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. The "boil and bite" mouth guard is made from thermoplastic material. It is placed in hot water to soften, then placed in the mouth and shaped around the teeth using finger and tongue pressure.
3. Custom-fitted mouth guards are individually designed and made in a dental office or a professional laboratory based on your dentist's instructions. First, your dentist will make an impression of your teeth and a mouth guard is then molded over the model using a special material. Due to the use of the special material and because of the extra time and work involved, this custom-made mouth guard is more expensive than the other types, but it provides the most comfort, protection and certainly the better choice.
Generally, mouth guards cover your upper teeth only, but in some instances (such as if you wear braces or another fixed dental appliance on your lower jaw), your dentist will make a mouth guard for the lower teeth as well. Your dentist can suggest the best mouth guard for you. An effective mouth guard should be comfortable, resist tears, be durable and easy to clean, and should not restrict your breathing or speech.
If you grind your teeth at night, a special mouth guard-type of dental appliance -- called a nocturnal bite plate or bite splint (NTI) -- may be created to prevent tooth damage.
Who Needs a Mouth Guard?
Mouth guards should be used by anyone -- both children and adults -- who play contact sports such as football, boxing, soccer, ice hockey, basketball, lacrosse, and field hockey. However, even those participating in noncontact sports (for example, gymnastics) and any recreational activity (for example, skateboarding, mountain biking) that might pose a risk of injury to the mouth would benefit from wearing a protective mouth guard.
Adults and children who grind their teeth at night should have a nocturnal bite plate or bite splint made to prevent tooth damage.
Why You Should Use Night Mouth Guards
If you suffer from bruxism or teeth grinding problems, night mouth guards are the easiest solution for it. Bruxism is the medical term given to teeth grinding. It is that annoying habit of people to make clenching sounds with their teeth as they sleep, either during the day or during the night.
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of night mouth guards. The most popular one is the type you can easily buy over-the-counter. The other type of night mouth guard is the one especially created by a dentist to fit onto your teeth. These are referred to as the custom-fit night mouth guards and they may take some time and money to create.
The use of night mouth guards is very important for bruxism patients. For one thing, these simple devices can protect the surface of your teeth, ensuring you of a perfectly good smile all the time. Severe bruxism can damage your dentures. And chipped teeth don't contribute to a beautiful smile at all. Without a confident smile, it is a little harder for you to face the world and its challenges. This is how important your teeth and your smile can be.
However, using night mouth guards for bruxism is imperative not only because you have to maintain your pretty smile. You need these guards because it can keep headaches and jaw pains from developing. Night mouth guards do more than just keep your teeth from getting broken or scratched. It will also ensure you of a long and restful sleep, night after night.
The effects of bruxism can be very intense in some people. Some suffer from severe jaw pains and a splitting headache upon waking up in the morning. It's a good thing that a good percentage of bruxism patients respond to night mouth guards. The moment they wear the device, they tend to be more conscious of the movement of their teeth, especially their tendency to clench teeth. Night mouth guards serve as an overnight protection for your teeth to keep them from touching with each other.
Patients suffering from bruxism are advised to consult with their dentist to address the problem. There are several factors why people tend to grind their teeth. Night mouth guards are not the only solution to the problem. For some patients, surgery may be required. Others would need a few sessions of behavioral correction therapy to solve the problem. But if you really want to use night mouth guards, try to get the custom-fit types.
These ones fit smugly to your teeth so it won't fall off easily even if you are deep into your sleep. However, the custom-fit guards are far more expensive compared to the over-the-counter variants.
Click Here to Learn More About NTI Appliances
Why Use a Mouth Guard When Playing Sports?
Because accidents can happen during any physical activity, the advantage of using a mouth guard during sports is that it can help limit the risk of mouth-related injuries to your lips, tongue, and soft tissues of your mouth. Mouth guards also help you avoid chipped or broken teeth, nerve damage to a tooth, or even tooth loss.
There are also sports mouth guards which have been proven to enhance performance.
Click Here to Learn More About Performance Mouthwear
Can I Wear a Mouth Guard if I Wear Braces?
Yes. Since an injury to the face could damage braces or other fixed appliances, a properly fitted mouth guard may be particularly important for people who wear braces or have fixed bridge work. Your dentist or orthodontist can determine the mouth guard that will provide the best protection for your unique mouth work. An important reminder: do not wear any orthodontic retainers or other removable appliance during any contact sports or during any recreational activities that put your mouth at risk for injury.
How Do I Care for My Mouth Guard?
To care for your mouth guard:
- Rinse your mouth guard with cold water or with a mouth rinse before and after each use and/or clean it with toothpaste and a toothbrush.
- Occasionally clean the mouth guard in cool, soapy water and rinse it thoroughly.
- Place the mouth guard in a firm, perforated container to store or transport it. This permits air circulation and helps to prevent damage.
- Protect the mouth guard from high temperatures -- such as hot water, hot surfaces, or direct sunlight -- to minimize distorting its shape.
- Occasionally check the mouth guard for general wear. If you find holes or tears in it or if it becomes loose or causes discomfort, replace it.
- Bring the mouth guard to each regularly scheduled dental visit to have your dentist exam it.
Related Dental Injury Articles
An Introduction to Sports Injuries & Dentistry
Dental injuries incurred during sports activities are highly treatable, and can involve positive outcomes if participants act quickly to see a dentist after an injury. However, if not treated quickly these kinds of injuries can lead to discomfort, embarrassment and a lifetime of dental costs... Read Article
The Field-Side Guide to Dental Injuries
Accidents to the teeth, jaws and mouth can happen at any time during any sporting activity. Proper attention can save pain, alleviate anxiety and costly dental treatment. A little knowledge, as they say, can go along way. This field-side guide briefly explains some simple rules to follow when dealing with different dental injuries and when you need to see the dentist... Read Article
There are times when an athlete can feel invincible... able to connect on every jump-shot, run faster and longer, or hit every pitch, but statistics show that even on their best days accidents can happen. An ounce of prevention goes a long way... For a small cost, a protective mouthguard can prevent excess anxiety, risk, injury, pain, suffering, and years of dental treatment... Read Article