One of the most important pieces of equipment for sports activity is a mouth guard. These dental devices help protect your teeth and jaw from oral injuries. Mouth guards also serve another purpose, in protecting your teeth from nighttime teeth grinding and jaw clenching called bruxism. When designed for nighttime wear, this device is called a night guard. Learn more about both sports and nighttime mouth guards, below.
Why People Wear Mouth Guards
Dental injuries occur more often than you think. But too many young people do not protect their teeth and jaws by simply wearing a mouth guard during contact sports. This means many suffer preventable oral injuries and dental trauma each year.
A mouth guard is an important piece of protective equipment for anyone playing football, soccer, wrestling, lacrosse, rugby or basketball, among other activities. These sports are some of the ones responsible for the most oral injuries.
Athletic mouth guards are easy to wear. They are thin, flexible plastic bite trays worn over teeth to protect delicate oral structures. Still, coaches, schools and other organizers of group sports do not require mouth guards as part of mandated equipment.
Why People Wear Night Guards
Night guards are types of mouth guards custom fitted to your bite for nighttime wear. These dental devices are also made of plastic to wear over teeth. They prevent nighttime teeth grinding and jaw clenching related to the condition called bruxism. Many people grind their teeth at night from stress, anger, frustration, anxiety or even chewing activity.
If you suffer bruxism and do not wear a night guard, you risk major dental damage caused by these teeth grinding. The condition can cause tiny fractures in your teeth, particularly in the back molars. Many people suffer tooth loss due to bruxism each year. You can also suffer headaches, severe jaw or facial pain, TMJ disorder and restoration damage.
Types of Mouth Guards
The best mouth guards are those custom-made and fitted by your dentist. But there are three types of mouth guards available on the market. These include:
Stock mouth guards are not custom fitted. They are available over-the-counter at your major drugstore or other retailer. Available in three sizes, these mouth guards are considered the least comfortable and require constant bite pressure to hold them in place. You can also expect the least protection from this type.
Boil & Bite
Also available over-the-counter in major drugstores, the boil and bite mouth guards fit better than stock mouth guards. You boil the plastic tray for about a minute and then bite down on it to shape it to your teeth. While these fit the shape of your teeth, they still do not offer the protection of custom fitted mouth guards.
Custom fitted mouth guards available from your dentist’s office offer the highest quality of protection for your teeth and jaw. Your dentist or orthodontist casts a mold of your teeth for a dental lab to craft your mouth guard. These are made of higher quality plastic and feel more comfortable when worn. Your dentist can fit you for a mouth guard for sports or a night guard for nighttime wear.
If you will be playing contact sports or taking part in a rough activity that puts your teeth and jaw at risk for injury, talk to your dentist about mouth guards. You should also have a conversation with your oral healthcare provider about nighttime protection for your teeth and jaw, if you suffer from bruxism. Of course, the biggest factor in this protection is actually wearing the device once fitted.