~ Photo: Actual guards made in our office- Custom Sports Guard and “B-Splint”~
When most people hear the word “mouthguard” they think of playing childhood sports. Mouthguards are protective devices that cover the teeth and gums to reduce the risk of injury to your teeth, gums and lips from trauma. Mouthguards typically cover your upper teeth as they usually get the brunt of the trauma because they stick out further than lower teeth.
Mouthguards should be used by children and adults who play contact sports as well as noncontact sports (such as gymnastics, weight lifting, skateboarding, skating and mountain biking). It’s also highly recommended for people who have braces or permanent dental restorations (such as implants & bridges) to wear guards during any type of contact or noncontact sports. If you have removable appliances such as ortho retainers or partial dentures, it is recommended that you do not wear them while wearing a mouthguard or during any contact or noncontact sport. In addition to the need of a mouthguard during organized sports and other recreational activities, another common need is for those who grind their teeth.
If you feel you clench or grind your teeth I recommend that you discuss your concern with your dentist and have an occlusal analysis done. This comprehensive exam will allow your dentist to see if you’re only grinding at night or if it’s part of your everyday function. A night guard is a customized acrylic splint that helps allow your muscles to relax and protect your teeth from further wear, chipping, and cracking.
There are three common types of guards available; Custom-made, Boil and Bite, and Stock. The best type of guard is one that is customized to your mouth and made by a dentist. The Boil and Bite guards are made out of a thermoplastic material and usually can be found at most sporting good stores. This type of guard is placed in hot water to soften, then placed in your mouth and shaped around the teeth, using finger and tongue pressure to mold it, be sure to follow manufactures instructions. The Boil and Bite guards offer a much better fit than stock guards. Stock guards are also available at sporting goods and department stores but are not recommended by dentists. They are generally bulky as the fit cannot be adjusted, which makes breathing more difficult, and they provide little to no protection.
Once you have your guard it’s important to maintain it, here are a few tips to help you:
- Rinse your guard with cold water before and after each use, you can even rinse with mouthrinse and brush with a toothbrush (without toothpaste)
- Keep guard in a firm container that permits air circulation which helps prevent damage
- Keep away from hot water, hot surfaces and direct sunlight – these can distort the shape & fit
- Monitor guard for wear – if the fit becomes loose or you have holes or tears then it needs to be replaced. * Children’s & Teen’s guards may need to be replaced more often because their mouths are still growing & changing.
- Bring guard to each regularly scheduled dental visit to have it cleaned and evaluated
- Keep out of reach of pets as they tend to chew or eat them
The most important thing to remember is your guard needs to be effective. You need a proper fit, easy to clean, durable, and not restrict your breathing. Ask your dentist for more information on which guard would best meet your needs. You don’t want to get caught without a mouthguard and risk fracturing your teeth or the loss of one of your front teeth causing trouble with smiling, talking, and eating!