What are mouth guards?
Mouth guards, also called mouth protectors, help cushion a blow to the face, minimizing the risk of broken teeth and injuries to your lips, tongue, face or jaw. They typically cover the upper teeth and are a great way to protect the soft tissues of your tongue, lips and cheek lining.
What are mouth guards used for?
For Sports: When it comes to protecting your mouth, a mouth guard is an essential piece of athletic gear that should be part of your standard equipment from an early age. In fact, studies show that athletes are 60 times more likely to suffer harm to the teeth if they’re not wearing a mouth guard. While collision and contact sports, such as boxing, are higher-risk sports for the mouth, you can experience a dental injury in non-contact activities too, such as gymnastics and skating. 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.
For Treatment for Bruxism: Bruxism is involuntary or habitual grinding of the teeth, typically during sleep. Grinding and clenching during sleep can generate forces in excess of 200 pounds, and over time, can lead to damage of the tooth enamel and other oral health problems. If untreated, teeth grinding can result in permanent tooth and oral damage that require surgery or other expensive treatments. Most patients who suffer from habitual teeth grinding require professional solutions to prevent serious, long term damage.
What kind of mouth guards are most common?
Custom-fitted. These are made by your dentist for you personally. They are more expensive than the other versions, but because they are customized, usually offer the best fit.
Stock. These are inexpensive and come pre-formed, ready to wear. Unfortunately, they often don’t fit very well. They can be bulky and can make breathing and talking difficult.
Boil and bite. These mouth protectors can be bought at many sporting goods stores and drugstores and may offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. They are first softened in water (boiled), then inserted and allowed to adapt to the shape of your mouth. While these boil and bite mouth guards offer a better fit than the out-of-the-box night guards, they’re still uncomfortable and bulky
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.
The best mouth guard is one that has been custom made for your mouth by your dentist.
Some tips on how to take care of mouth guards:
- rinse before and after each use or brush with a toothbrush and toothpaste
- occasionally clean the mouth guard in cool, soapy water and rinse thoroughly
- transport the mouth guard in a sturdy container that has vents
- never leave the mouth guard in the sun or in hot water
- check for wear and tear to see if it needs replacing