Mouth Guards: Which One Should You Choose?
What is a mouth guard?
Protect your natural teeth at all costs, seeing as you’ll only get one set of permanent teeth in your life! Mouth guards help protect your teeth from injury and can be particularly effective in preventing damage from teeth grinding and sports accidents. Some mouth guards are even designed to help you sleep better in individuals with certain sleep disorders. You’ll want a mouth guard that is comfortable, durable, and easy to clean, breath, and talk in. Your dental professional can help guide you to the best type of mouth guard to meet your specific needs.
Types of mouth guards
Stock mouth guards:
You may be familiar with stock mouth guards, which are commonly available at most sporting and drug stores. These mouth guards are relatively affordable and tend to come in pre-made small, medium, and large sizes to cover everyone’s teeth. Sounds easy and simple, however, due to their standard sizes, they are often uncomfortable, bulky, and loose. This can make speaking and breathing challenging, as well as not being the most effective in protecting the teeth as other types of mouth guards.
Boil-and-bite mouth guards:
Boil-and-bite mouth guards can also be found in most stores and are relatively low-priced. However, the mouth guards come in one size that can be molded to fit your teeth, creating a better fit than stock mouth guards. This mouth guard will come with specific instructions and will often involve boiling the material to soften it and then placing it around your teeth until it forms its new shape.
Custom-made mouth guards:
Your dental professional may also provide you with a custom-made mouth guard. An impression of your teeth will be taken which will be used to create the mouth guard. This is often the most effective in terms of protection and most comfortable type of mouth guard as it is shaped exactly to your mouth providing the best fit. This option is often the most expensive type of mouth guard, but dental insurance plans may cover some or all of the expense.
Which type should I use?
Your dental professional is best suited to help determine the best mouth guard for you. If you play sports, particularly contact sports (i.e. football, soccer, boxing, basketball, field hockey, ice hockey, gymnastics, skateboarding, skating, cycling, volleyball, softball, or wrestling), the stock, boil-and-bite, or custom-made mouth guards should be worn to protect your teeth from damage.
If you suffer from teeth grinding (bruxism), in most cases your dentist will recommend a custom-made mouth guard.
Individuals diagnosed with sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts throughout sleep, may also require a specific type of mouth guard. Your doctor may suggest a custom-made mouth guard or bite positioner that places your lower jaw and tongue in a forward position to keep the airway open for better breathing and rest.
If you experience issues with your jaw joints or suffer from a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), your dentist may recommend treatment with a custom-made mouth guard or splint to alleviate symptoms.
Mouth guard for braces
Don’t worry, if you have braces you are not left out of the conversation regarding the importance of mouth guards! In fact, it is very important to protect your teeth and oral cavity when you have braces or other orthodontic appliances. A properly fitted mouth guard over your braces is recommended especially if you play sports or grind your teeth. Often, custom-made mouth guards provided by your dentist is often the most comfortable and ideal fit to help protect your teeth with braces. Usually your dentist will make one for your upper teeth only, but in some cases your dentist may recommend both an upper and lower mouth guard.
Caring for your mouth guard
Caring for your teeth means caring for your mouth guard, too. It’s necessary to clean your mouth guard, which can harbor harmful oral bacteria. Cleaning your mouth guard with a toothbrush and mild soap or mouth rinse can help remove any debris. Avoid cleaning it with hot water, as it may alter the shape of the mouth guard. In addition, be sure to brush and floss your teeth before putting in your mouth guard.
It’s important to protect your mouth guard from damage. Avoid placing your mouth guard in the reach of any pets and keep it in a ventilated container that will allow it to air dry after cleaning. Regularly look for any signs of damage to the mouth guard, and replace it if it becomes damaged or ill-fitting.