What is a Dental Mouth Guard?
Dental mouth guards, sports guards, or mouth protectors are removable appliances to dentures that protect your teeth against damage during sports and nighttime grinding or clenching. Although each type of dental mouth guard may differ in its purpose, they are all acrylic plastic to cover your teeth (usually the upper arch) to support and protect your dentition from fracture, damage, or trauma.
How Are They Worn?
Dental Mouth guards are generally worn on the upper teeth. They are designed in such a way that they will also provide protection to lower teeth. In certain situations, dental mouth guards can be made for lower teeth also but typically upper night guards are more comfortable for the patient.
Who Needs a Mouth Guard?
Mouthguards are mainly used for protecting the teeth and jaw joints from accidental injuries during sports. When playing contact sports like boxing and wrestling, and even non-contact sports like baseball, cricket, skateboarding, etc., there is a risk of injury to the teeth. A mouth guard will normally protect against it.
What are the Different Types of Mouth Guards?
There are three broad types of mouthguards, which differ primarily on the way they are made:
- Stock mouth guards are available prefabricated and ready to use. These are typically the least expensive, and you can buy them over the counter and immediately put them on. They are available in most sports stores and groceries. Stock mouth guards are mass-produced in two or three sizes therefore they are not the most accurately fitting. These are typically very bulky and awkward, which makes talking and breathing difficult. These are the least favored by dentists due to its inaccuracy in its fit, which can lead to further jaw and teeth issues in the future.
Protect your teeth with custom mouth guards!
- Boil and bite mouth guards can also be bought at most stores and generally provide a better fit than stock mouth guards. These are originally made from thermoplastic materials that tend to melt when boiled. In the molten state, you bite on them and mold them with fingers and the tongue to obtain a highly recommended fit, hence the name “boil and bite” mouth guards. Additionally, these are made of a thinner material because they have to be molded with hands, which makes them less robust and rigid. Although they provide a closer fit than stock mouth guards, it is only recommended for short-term use because they can shift your teeth with chronic use and can cause issues in the long run.
- Custom mouth guards– these custom mouth guard use impressions taken of your teeth in a dental office which are then sent to a dental laboratory for fabrication. Though these are the most expensive of the three options, they provide the most accurate fit and are the most effective option to protect your teeth.
Can I Wear a Mouth Guard if I Wear Braces?
Yes! If you are wearing braces and you get injured or hit in the face, your braces can do damage to your surrounding gums or cheeks. An accurately-fitting mouth guard may be particularly important in such situations. Your dentist or orthodontist should provide highly recommended advice on the appropriate form of the guard for your mouth.
How to Care for Your Mouth Guard?
Make it a routine to:
- Rinse the mouth guard with water or a mouth rinse whenever you remove it or put it on. It can also be cleaned with soapy water and a brush.
- Store the mouth guard in a perforated (to permit air circulation). Acrylic mouthguards must be kept wet in a soaking solution or fresh water. When storing, keep it cool, avoiding exposure to sunlight and high temperature.
- Check your mouth guard frequently for wear. If you find any holes or tears or if it becomes loose or does not fit comfortably, replace it.
- Has your mouth guard been inspected by your dentist at a regular checkup?
If you play high-impact sports, you may benefit from wearing a custom mouth guard.
What Happens If You Don’t Wear A Mouth Guard During Sports?
Mouth guards are designed to prevent accidental injuries to the oral tissues during active contact sports. If sportsmen do not wear mouth guards, they are vulnerable to the following types of injuries or problems:
- Chipped or Fractured Teeth – teeth can fracture due to a direct blow to the teeth during contact sports. This can be easily prevented by wearing mouthguards.
- Damaged Dental Prostheses – if a mouth guard is not worn, an accidental impact on the face can lead to the fracture of dental prostheses like crowns, bridges, and other prostheses.
- Injuries Associated with the Jaw Joints – Injuries to one or both the jaw joints can result in serious problems such as difficulty in speech and eating and limited mouth opening. The dental mouth guards are helpful in preventing direct or indirect trauma to the jaw joints during field or contact sports.
- Injury to the Lips and Oral Soft Tissues – during contact sports, there is a chance that teeth may accidentally bite on the tongue or cheeks, leading to a serious injury. Another use of a dental mouth guard is to prevent the oral soft tissues from damage.
Custom Mouth guards are designed for your protection. Wearing them during sports can prevent you from serious damage to your teeth, gums and other dental structures. If you are a sportsman and you don’t have a habit of wearing one, then you should visit your dentist immediately for getting custom-made mouthguards, so that you can enjoy the sports without having any fear of dental injuries.
What If I Want to Stop Nighttime Grinding?
Mouth guards can be used for both protection from external trauma and sporting injuries and nighttime grinding and clenching. However, mouthguards are only placed on the upper arch of the mouth and are primarily meant for sporting events. The ideal device will be a night guard if you suffer from nighttime grinding and clenching.
Nightguards are similar to mouth guards — both protect your teeth from damage and external trauma. Both can be used for sporting events and nighttime grinding and bruxism. However, night guards are specifically designed for people who suffer from bruxism, teeth clenching, loud snoring, and sleep apnea.
Nightguards are plastic devices that protect both your upper and lower teeth. Teeth grinding and clenching are common during sleep or even during the day. You may unconsciously be clenching your teeth through stressful situations or other factors that induce anxiety. Treating the root cause of bruxism is difficult because it’s often caused by psychological reasons, which is why night guards serve as a quick solution to prevent tooth wear and damage.
If you continue grinding your teeth too often, it may lead to issues like cracks, fractures, cavities, and severe tooth wear. Over time, these issues can spread, and you may need root canal treatment, or you may need to extract teeth from their root, both of which are extremely painful and expensive procedures. Besides these extreme issues, you will also suffer from toothaches, tooth sensitivity, changed bites, and many other problems.
However, with night guards, you can put an end to all of those problems. If you already have a dental mouth guard, you may continue using them, as both serve similar purposes. However, if you suffer from severe grinding and bruxism, it’s better to get a nightguard — one specifically meant for that problem. A mouthguard may work, but it won’t be nearly as efficient as a nightguard.