When most people think about mouth guards, they associate them with contact sports like football or boxing. Mouth guards provide essential protection for the teeth against impacts. Mouth guards also protect the soft tissues of your mouth from becoming cut by your teeth in an impact.
In addition to mouth guards which can be used to protect your teeth from traumatic impact during sports, your dentist may prescribe a night guard to protect your teeth from the effects of clenching and grinding whilst sleeping.
Unfortunately, the mouth guard used for protection during sporting activities has a very different design from the night guard worn at night time to protect your teeth from clenching and grinding (also known as bruxism). And to complicate matters further, there are many over the counter products that claim to act as mouth guards or night guards, or both! If you are considering using an over the counter product it is important to consider some of the limitations of these devices.
- Over the counter mouth guards and night guards
Over the counter products can be relatively inexpensive and fitted to your mouth at home fairly quickly by ‘boiling and biting’. They are limited by the wide variation in size and shape of the human mouth, unfortunately one size does not fit all! If a mouth guard doesn’t cover all of the teeth and gums then the trauma from impact is not dissipated as widely and can still lead to tooth or soft tissue damage. An over the counter night guard to protect from grinding (bruxism) is even harder to fit because it’s proper function relies not just on how it snaps on, but also how the biting surface contacts the opposing teeth. The only real indication for an over the counter product might be for use as a temporary sports guard until you can get a professional one made.
- Custom fit professional appliances
The main disadvantage of professional mouth guards (sports guards) and night guards (bruxism appliances) is that they are more costly than over the counter products. They also require two dental visits two weeks apart; one visit to take custom moulds of your teeth and a second visit to fit and assess the appliance. However, these disadvantages are far outweighed by the advantages of a custom professional appliance. A custom professionally fit sports guard offers maximum protection from trauma by covering all of the teeth and gums regardless of how small or large your jaw is. And a custom night guard can not only protect your teeth from grinding, it can even stop you from clenching and grinding altogether which can actually alleviate jaw and muscle pain.
If you are concerned about the risk to your teeth from sports injury or grinding, discuss your situation with your dentist. A custom fabricated appliance may be more expensive initially, but the damage it could prevent is priceless! Contact Pearl Dental today for more information.