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What Are Mouth Guards?
Mouth guards, sports guards or mouth protectors are removable appliances to dentures that protect your teeth against damage during sports and against nighttime grinding or clinching. Although each type of mouth guard may differ in their purpose, they are all are made of acrylic plastic material to cover your teeth (usually the upper arch) to support and protect your dentition from fracture, damage or trauma.
How Are They Worn?
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, mouth guards can be made for lower teeth also but typically upper night guards are more comfortable for the patient.
What are the Different Types of Mouth Guards?
There are three broad types of mouth guards, 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 make 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.
- 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 These are originally made from thermoplastic materials which tend to melt when they are boiled. In the molten state you bite on them and mold them with fingers and the tongue to obtain the best 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 these less robust and rigid. Although they provide a closer fit than stock mouth guards, it is only recommended for a short-term use because they can shift your teeth with chronic use and can cause issues in the long run.
- Custom-made mouth guards– these are custom made mouth guards using 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 out of the three options, it provides the most accurate fit and is the most effective option to provide protection for your teeth.
Who Needs a Mouth Guard?
Mouth guards 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.
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 the best advice on the appropriate form of the guard for your mouth.
How to Care for My Mouth Guard?
Make it a routine to:
- Rinse the mouth guard with water or a mouth rinse every time when 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 mouth guards must be kept wet is 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.
- Have your mouth guard inspected by your dentist at regular checkup
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 mouth guards.
- 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 – An injury to one or both the jaw joints can result in serious problems such as difficulty in speech and eating, and limited mouth opening. The 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 mouth guard is to prevent the oral soft tissues from damage.
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 for nighttime grinding and clinching. However, mouth guards are only placed on the upper arch of the mouth and primarily meant for sporting events. If you suffer from nighttime grinding and clinching, then the ideal device would be a night guard.
Night guards are similar to mouth guards — both of them protect your teeth from damages and external trauma. Both can be used for sporting events and for nighttime grinding and bruxism. However, night guards are specifically designed for people who suffer from bruxism, teeth clenching, or loud snoring and sleep apnea.
Night guards are plastic devices that protect both your upper and lower teeth. Teeth grinding and clenching is 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 also lead to issues like cracks, fractures, cavities, and severe teeth 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. Beside these extreme issues, you will also suffer from toothaches, tooth sensitivity, changed bite, and many other problems.
However, with night guards, you can put an end to all of those problems. If you have a mouth guard already, you may continue using them as both of them serve similar purposes. However, if you suffer from severe grinding and bruxism, it’s better to get a night guard — one that’s specifically meant for that problem. A mouth guard may work, but it won’t be nearly as efficient as a night guard.
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