The Importance of Mouth Guards
When it comes to selecting your mouth guard, you have a few options that differ based on the kind of sport you’re playing, what you can afford and what fits most comfortably.
1. Mouth Protectors: These standard protectors can be purchased in most sporting goods stores and are considered the least customizable. That’s why they’re rarely recommended. Because they aren’t fitted to your mouth, they are less likely to provide the protection level you need.
2. Boil-and-Bite Mouthpieces: Also known as a “mouth-formed” mouth guard, this option is a plastic mouthpiece that is boiled to soften the plastic. You can then insert the mouthpiece into your mouth to mold it against your teeth. While these may not be as durable as the mouth guard you get from your dentist, they do have the benefit of being customizable for a better, more comfortable fit.
3. Custom-Fitted Mouth Guard: To make this mouthpiece, your dentist takes a mold of your top teeth and sends the mold away to a dental laboratory. What you get back is a custom-fitted mold designed to fit your teeth comfortably and is less likely to have the “slip factor” of other molds you make at home.
Mouth Guard Benefits
You are almost two times as likely to experience an injury to the mouth when you don’t wear a mouth guard, according to the American Dental Association. From a stray elbow in the mouth to a fall, a mouth guard can help to protect the teeth and cushion a blow to the mouth that could otherwise result in chipped or damaged teeth, nerve damage or tooth loss. You definitely need a mouth guard if you play a contact sport, such as football, basketball or hockey, and you may be surprised to learn that mouth guards are recommended for sports such as gymnastics as well.
If you have braces, mouth guard benefits include protecting your inner lips from injury and keeping your brackets as intact as possible in case you take a spill or a blow.
Keeping You Safe
Simply wearing a mouth guard doesn’t mean you are necessarily protected on the playing field. How your mouth guard fits matters too. Mouth guards must hold their shape and be thick enough in the back portion of their mouth guard to protect against injury, especially in the instance of a blow to the head that results in concussion, according to an article published in the “Journal of Athletic Training.” To ensure your mouthpiece is enough to protect you, have your dentist evaluate its fit.
A Nervous Habit
Mouth guards aren’t only for the playing field. They also can protect your teeth if you have a nighttime nervous habit.
“Wear a night guard if you grind your teeth,” says James Simon, DDS, MEd, Professor of Restorative Dentistry at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center in Memphis, Tenn. Dr. Simon says constant grinding without the protection of a mouth guard can lead to chipped or cracked teeth because the grinding causes them to wear down.
Chances are, you may grind your teeth at night and not even know it. This is true if you experience the following symptoms:
• Tired jaw muscles upon waking
• Teeth that appear worn down, especially on the back teeth
• Changes in indentations on your tongue
If you experience these symptoms, talk to your dentist, who may recommend wearing a night guard. Your dentist also can make a custom-fitted mouth guard that is likely to more effectively stay on your teeth at night than a mouth guard you buy and fit at home. Wearing it on a nightly basis can cut down on the pain and discomfort you typically experience when you grind your teeth.