A mouth guard is a covering that goes over your teeth popularly used if you play sports or grind your teeth.
Do you wear one to protect yourself from injury? Probably not.
However, you may not be aware that it prevents your teeth from great damage and falling off.
Especially if you habitual grind your teeth then it inhibits you from doing so in your sleep.
Different kinds serve separate purposes.
This article discusses why you will need a dental guard and how you can benefit from it.
Why Do You Need a Mouth Guard?
If You Play Sports
Are you into sports? Then wearing a dental guard is inevitable for you.
High impact sports can cause injury to the mouth.
This can get worse resulting in tooth loss.
Though, even if you play a noncontact sport or recreational activities like skateboarding, your risk a chance of injury to the mouth.
Furthermore, falling or being hurt while playing can cause damage to your lips and tongue alongside the mouth.
In the mouth, they can break or chip your teeth, damage soft tissue and cause nerve damage.
Hence, you should wear it while you are out to play on your own or with others.
Sports that you should definitely wear it with are:
- field hockey
- ice hockey
There are specific types of mouth guards that are worn while doing sports.
Keep reading to find that out.
If You Grind Your Teeth
Teeth grinding is an issue among adults and children which can gradually damage teeth.
It usually happens during sleep, hence unconsciously.
Adults may take a conscious effort to reduce their stress and other factors that can be behind clenching teeth, however, toddler teeth grinding is difficult to control.
Eventually, it will cause pain in the tooth, jaws and chip teeth.
Your canines can flatten and your enamel weakens causing yellow teeth discoloration.
Here a mouth guard for teeth grinding can prevent you from clenching your teeth in sleep.
Wearing it overnight can greatly help the condition of your teeth if you cannot control the external factors that cause it.
If You Have Sleeping Disorders
A mouth guard for snoring and sleep apnea can assist you in breathing.
Sleep apnea is a serious sleeping disorder that can stop your breath while in sleep.
While this happens temporarily, it can disrupt the oxygen supply to the brain, posing a risk of serious health problems like a heart attack or stroke.
Hence, it also causes you to snore during sleep and feel restless when you wake up.
A better solution is to use a CPAP machine that allows you to breathe properly by keeping your airways open while sleeping.
However, a mouthguard for a sleeping disorder like mild sleep apnea can help push your tongue and lower jaw in a forward position that keeps the airways open to breathe.
The ones with a strap that attaches to your head work best.
Similarly, they reduce snoring by opening airways as the lower jaw comes forward.
The vibrations in the soft tissue in the upper airways causing you to snore.
However, wearing a dental guard can prevent any obstruction of the airways lessening your loud snores.
Look out for over-the-counter mouthguards to see which one addresses your needs for snoring.
Though, it is best to ask your doctor to suggest one if snoring greatly impacts the quality of your life.
Mouth Guard With Braces
It is not compulsory to wear a dental guard if you wear teeth braces.
However, if you face the conditions like sleep apnea, teeth grinding and play sports then you can wear it over your braces as you would over your teeth.
In fact, you should definitely wear it as there can be more damage to your teeth with metal brackets, wires and impact.
Alongside protecting your teeth, cheeks, tongue and lips, you can also protect your braces.
Ask your dentist to fit you a dental guard that goes over both your upper and lower teeth.
You especially need a custom fit with braces so that they stay in place and protect your teeth completely.
Also, do not wear removable orthodontic appliances while playing sports for instance teeth retainers.
However, you can wear a mouthguard over Invisalign to protect your face from injury in contact sports and recreational activities.
Hence, remove your removable retainers before you go out playing football with your peers.
Furthermore, you should consult your dentist if it’s best to wear mouthguards over Invisalign.
Do not shy away from wearing it over braces as an injury to the face with braces will cause much more damage than that without it.
The protection of your face and mouth comes first.
Also do not purchase over-the-counter items as they will not be custom fit.
The fit is very important when you are wearing them over dental bridgework or braces.
Types of Mouth Guards
There are popularly three types of mouthguards in use.
As the name suggests, you can find these over-the-counter drug stores.
While they are available in small, medium, and large sizes they are actually quite a loose fit.
Hence, they can get bulky and cause difficulties while talking and breathing.
A loose fit also means the protection is limited.
As a result, you will still risk getting injuries while wearing it.
Moreover, most of them only protect the top teeth.
Though they are inexpensive and easy to find, they are still not the most ideal with these downsides.
Moreover, they can be uncomfortable to wear.
Hence, dentists do not recommend going for them.
However, you can begin by using them to get some protection if you cannot get custom-fit ones from your dentist.
These are custom-made by your dentist to completely go over your mouth providing you the best fit.
Hence, there are fewer chances of injuries and it dislodging during sleep.
Your dentist begins by taking an impression of your mouth.
Then they send it to the laboratory.
There the guard is molded onto the impression.
This gets the exact structure of your mouth and teeth from the mold to the mouthguard.
Therefore, it is the best option as it completely fits you which makes it comfortable as well, though it is expensive.
Boil and Bite
You can custom fit this mouthguard by boiling and biting.
It comes in only one size but its thermoplastic material allows you to customize it.
Either you boil it or place it in hot water. This helps to soften the material.
Then carefully place it on your front teeth and simultaneously bite it and shape it using your hands and tongue pressure.
It will not give the same fit as a custom-made mouth protector.
However, you can still give it a good fit if you follow the instructions closely.
Moreover, it is less expensive than custom-fit ones but more than stock ones.
Though, they are readily available at drug stores and sports shops.
Which One Should You Get?
Most mouth protectors only go over your top teeth.
Though, if you wear orthodontic appliances like braces then your doctor may make a custom fit one for both upper and lower teeth.
A good mouth protector is the one which is:
- comfortable to wear
- easily cleaned
- does not cause tears and resists them
- fits correctly
- does not obstruct talking or breathing
If you occasionally play sports then you do not need an expensive custom-fit protector.
A stock mouth protector would do for a one-time adventure.
Though, if the contact sport you are playing is of high impact then it is better to go for a boil and bite one.
This can provide you a better fit to prevent injuries.
For Teeth Grinding and Clenching
A night guard for clenching and grinding should fit perfectly while you grind your teeth at night.
It helps to separate the bottom and top teeth preventing them from clenching together and causing jaw pain.
While a boil and bite mouth protector may also help, they can get weak after consistent use.
Hence, the fit can loosen.
Moreover, a stock one can dislodge while sleeping making it difficult to sleep and breathe.
Not to mention, if they are not fit enough, they are quite uncomfortable.
Hence, it is best to get a custom one whose size fits you perfectly.
Your dentist can also recommend you a bite splint (also known as a nocturnal bite plate).
This dental appliance is especially used for bruxism to prevent damage to your teeth.
It also works as a mouth guard for TMJ function and improving the muscles in the jaw.
For Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Since you want to breathe properly in sleep apnea, you need a custom-fit mouth protector especially made by your dentist.
Your main aim is to prevent the obstruction of airways and stock plus boil and bite would just not do in that case when you can’t adjust them properly.
Next, you can try over-the-counter stock and boil and bite protectors for snoring.
However, if you greatly suffer from it, it is best to get a custom fit one instead.
Caring For Your Mouth Guard
To prevent infections, you should keep your mouthguard clean and tidy.
It stays in contact with your mouth hence, clean your teeth before you wear them.
Properly brush and floss also clean the mouth protector before you put it in.
Remember to clean it before and after use but only with cold water.
Hot water can disrupt its shape.
So can hot surfaces and sunlight.
Use soapy water or a toothbrush to clean it thoroughly.
Furthermore, place it in a perforated container.
So that there is enough ventilation for it to dry after cleaning.
Acrylic mouth protectors should go in fresh clean water.
Keep checking its durability.
If you see signs of wearing like holes and loose fit, it is time to replace it.
Finally, keep it out of the reach of your pets.
Whenever you visit your dentist, take your mouth guard with you.
Your dentist will examine it, check for wear and tear and may make a new one for you.