Are you an athlete, a nighttime teeth grinder, or simply concerned about your dental health? If so, then you’ve probably heard about mouth guards and how they can protect your pearly whites. But what exactly are mouth guards, and how do they work? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about these dental protectors, from the different types to how to choose the right one for you. So, buckle up and get ready to dive into the wonderful world of mouth guards!
What are Mouth Guards?
Mouth guards, also known as mouth protectors or sports guards, are dental appliances designed to cushion and protect your teeth and jaw from injury. They are most commonly used during sports or recreational activities with a risk of impact or trauma to the face. Mouth guards work by distributing the force of impact, helping to prevent chipped, cracked, or knocked-out teeth, as well as injuries to the lips, tongue, and soft tissues in the mouth. For nighttime grinders and teeth chatters, there are specially designed dental appliances made with firmer materials on the biting surface to separate the teeth and provide protection.
Types of Mouth Guards
Three main types of mouth guards are available, each with its own pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look at these different options.
Stock Mouth Guards
These pre-made, ready-to-wear mouth guards can be found at most sporting goods stores. They are the most affordable option but come in limited sizes and may not fit your mouth comfortably. Stock mouth guards often provide minimal protection due to their poor fit and lack of customization. Dentists typically don’t recommend these for athletes or those who require a higher level of protection.
Boil-and-Bite Mouth Guards
Boil-and-bite mouth guards are also available at sporting goods stores and offer a better fit than stock options. Made from a thermoplastic material, they can be softened by boiling and then moulded to your teeth by biting down on the guard. While they provide a more customized fit, they may still offer a different level of protection and comfort than a custom-made mouth guard.
Custom-Made Mouth Guards
These mouth guards are the gold standard when it comes to dental protection. Custom-made by a dentist, they are designed specifically for your mouth using an impression of your teeth. While they are more expensive than other options, custom mouth guards provide the best fit, comfort, and protection for your teeth and jaw.
Why Mouth Guards are Important
Mouth guards play a crucial role in protecting your teeth and jaw from various types of injuries. Here are a few reasons why using a mouth guard is essential:
Prevent Dental Injuries
A properly fitted mouth guard can help prevent dental injuries, such as tooth fractures, dislocations, or even tooth loss. By absorbing and dispersing the force of impact, mouth guards protect your teeth from direct hits.
Protect Soft Tissues
Mouth guards can also prevent injuries to the lips, tongue, and cheeks by acting as a barrier between your teeth and the soft tissues in your mouth.
Reduce Jaw Injuries
Mouth guards can help minimize the risk of jaw fractures and dislocations by absorbing the force of impact and stabilizing the jaw joint during collisions.
Reduce the Impact of Concussions
While mouth guards cannot entirely prevent concussions, they can reduce their severity by helping to absorb and distribute the force of impact to the head and neck.
How to Choose the Right Mouth Guard
When selecting a mouth guard, there are several factors to consider:
Comfort: A comfortable mouth guard will be easier to wear consistently. Make sure it fits snugly but doesn’t cause discomfort or restrict your ability to speak or breathe.
Protection: Choose a mouth guard that provides adequate protection for your specific sport or activity. A custom-made mouth guard is highly recommended for high-impact sports like football, hockey, or boxing.
Durability: Mouth guards should be made from high-quality materials that can withstand the wear and tear of regular use. Custom-made mouth guards typically offer the best durability.
Fit: A well-fitting mouth guard will stay in place during activity and provide optimal protection. Custom-made mouth guards are tailored to your unique dental structure, ensuring the best possible fit.
Caring for Your Mouth Guard
To keep your mouth guard in tip-top shape and protect your dental health, follow these care tips:
Rinse After Use
After each use, rinse your mouth guard with cold water or an antimicrobial mouth rinse to remove debris and bacteria.
Clean your mouth guard at least once a week with a toothbrush and toothpaste to remove any buildup. For a deeper clean, you can also use a denture cleaner or a specialized mouth guard cleaner.
Store your mouth guard in a vented container to allow for air circulation and prevent the growth of bacteria. Avoid exposing it to direct sunlight or high temperatures, as this can cause the material to warp. Be sure to keep it out of reach of pets that may take to it as a new chew toy.
Inspect for Wear and Damage
Regularly inspect your mouth guard for signs of wear, such as tears, cracks, or thinning material. If you notice any damage or if the mouth guard no longer fits securely, it’s time to replace it.
Replace as Needed
Mouth guards should be replaced when they show signs of wear or if your dental situation changes, such as the eruption of new teeth or the loss of teeth. Custom-made mouth guards typically last longer than stock or boil-and-bite options, but it’s essential to consult your dentist to determine when it’s time for a replacement.
Mouth guards play a vital role in protecting your teeth and jaw from injury during sports and recreational activities. They’re also great at helping patients who tend to grind their teeth at night. With various types to choose from, it’s essential to select a mouth guard that offers the best fit, comfort, and protection for your specific needs. Custom-made mouth guards are the top choice for optimal dental protection, but boil-and-bite options can also provide a suitable level of safety for certain activities.
Remember to care for your mouth guard properly to ensure its longevity and effectiveness in safeguarding your pearly whites. And, as always, consult your dentist for personalized advice on the best mouth guard for you. At Somerset Dental, we help our patients protect their teeth with our custom-fit mouth guards; contact our office to book your consultation.