A mouth guard is a piece of material that fits in your mouth to help prevent injuries to your lips, teeth, and gums. In instances when a patient regularly takes part in physical activity or grinds or clenches their teeth, it is crucial to wear a mouth guard as it creates a barrier between your teeth and any objects or force. Mouth guards also help prevent injuries to your jaw, chips or cracks to your teeth, and even tooth loss.
When selecting a mouth guard, is it best to understand why we do not recommend store bought and always recommend our patients to acquire a custom mouth guard instead. First, there are the boil and bite mouth guards that are usually purchased in pharmacies and sports stores. This type of guard can be molded at home using boiling water, which helps soften the material, and then placed in your mouth to help form the plastic to your teeth. This is a less expensive mouth guard; however, it will not supply you with the best comfort or protection.
A stock mouth guard is also sold in a sports store and comes pre-formed. This form of mouth guard provides the least amount of protection and comfort, which could result in extensive injury to your lips, teeth, or jaw. This is because these types of mouth guards take the approach of “one size fits all”. There is also the chance that stock mouth guards could interfere with swallowing and breathing, which is why they are not recommended.
Store-Bought vs Custom-Fit Mouth Guards
There are a variety of options available to patients who are looking to protect their teeth during sleep or physical activity. However, patients are left wondering what the difference is between store-bought and custom fit mouth guards. Store-bought mouth guards are mass-produced, which means that a generic form is taken to ensure it can fit a multitude of shapes. Although these mouth guards come ready to use, they may not fit every patient the same due to the different sizes and shapes of our mouths. Wearing an improperly fitted mouth guard could potentially cause more harm than not wearing one at all as the store-bought mouth guards are made from soft plastic, which is thin.
Thin plastic prevents the mouth guards from staying in the same shape for long periods of time. Typically, these store-bought mouth guards need to be replaced every 90-days or after 40-uses. Custom-fit mouth guards are made by a dental professional through impressions and measurements to ensure accuracy. They are made from thermoplastic which is far more durable than store bought plastic. Since they are custom-fit pieces, they will fit much more comfortably. These custom mouth guards also last 3-4-times longer than the store-bought kind.
If you take part in any contact sport or physical activity, you should always wear a sports guard to prevent injury to your face, teeth, and jaw. Oral injuries can occur at any age and as a result, it is crucial to stay protected when involved in contact sports.
Usually, we recommend acquiring a sport guard if you play sports such as football, rugby, hockey, or basketball, however, other sports such as baseball, cricket, and soccer have also been noted for patients to use a sports guard. You should also consider a sports guard if you take part in recreational activities such as skateboarding, cycling, or even track and field.
Sports mouth guards are beneficial because they help protect your teeth, gums, and surrounding tissues from any trauma that could occur during the activities. They can also help reduce the pressure that could occur from a forceful hit to the chin.
When acquiring a sports guard, be sure that the material is comfortable but secure, allows for normal breathing, provides full protection, and does not have an odor.
Many patients have found they suffer from headaches, TMD, sensitive teeth, or even eroded, chipped, or cracked teeth due to undiagnosed bruxism. This condition typically happens during the night, which is why many patients do not know if they have it. Although bruxism may not prompt any real concerns, in the long-term, it can lead to broken teeth, loss of tooth enamel, and potential tooth loss. However, once it is diagnosed, you can start wearing a night guard to help prevent further injury and pain. So, if you do grind or clench your teeth, a night guard will help protect your teeth and relieve tension that may occur.
There are a few different night guards that patients can purchase, such as a custom night guard, a boil and bite, and a one-size-fits-all. A custom night guard is made by a professional and is custom fit for your mouth using a dental impression. The boil and bite night guards are an over-the-counter guard which requires you to boil the piece of plastic to soften the material in order make your impression. This night guard may not give you the maximum protection or comfort you are looking for but it is a quick fix (just not a long-term solution). A one-size-fits-all night guard is another over-the-counter guard which is not custom or form fitting. These guards may work for a brief period but are not suggested for the long-term as they may only help with occasional grinding.