Types of Mouth Guards
We suggest patients wear custom mouth guards for several different reasons. For kids or adults who play sports or participate in activities that potentially involve a blow to the mouth or jaw area, we recommend wearing athletic mouth guards. Patients who grind their teeth at night have a condition called bruxism. If bruxing is severe enough, we recommend use of a night guard to protect both the teeth and the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
Sports Mouth Guards
In high school, our kids were involved in sports and wore sports mouth guards to protect their teeth. Our daughter pitched for her high school softball team, which placed her at risk if the batter hit a pitch straight back at her. Our son played basketball, a very physical sport in the upper grades. While he broke his nose several times, he never broke a tooth!
When kids wear braces, their orthodontist should be consulted about proper mouth guards. We had one patient, a high school softball player, who was hit in the mouth with a ball. After numbing her lips, I spent a long time pulling them out of her braces. Yes, encourage your kids to wear mouth guards! The good news is that we have different colored materials and can often times fashion a mouth guard in school colors. Because we value the importance of athletes wearing mouth guards, we reduce our fee for patients of record.
Sports mouth guards remain important for adults. I played basketball for many years after dental school and always wore a mouth guard, primarily because I know the damage that can be prevented with their use. If you, too, remain active in sports that could pose a danger to your teeth, talk to us about a custom sports mouth guard.
We recommend night guards for patients who experience frequent or long term teeth grinding while sleeping. This condition, called bruxism, wears away the enamel of the teeth. This can lead to cavity formation or other dental problems. In severe cases, bruxing can affect the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ.
The Mouth Healthy website maintained by the American Dental Association (ADA) includes an article and short informative video on teeth grinding, or bruxism. Symptoms include:
- dull headaches
- jaw soreness
- teeth that are painful or loose
- fractured teeth
When you clench and grind your teeth at night, the problems noted above can occur. Additionally, the TMJ and muscles around it can flare up and become painful. In severe cases, the TMJ becomes so painful that patients find it difficult to open their mouths or chew their food.
Sometimes patients go through a period of stress and wake up in the morning with soreness in their teeth or TMJ. While isolated incidents don’t concern us, consistent and long term bruxing issues need to be addressed. A dental night guard helps protect both your teeth and your TMJ.
Process to Make Custom Mouth Guards
The process to make a custom athletic mouth guard requires a patient to come to our office for dental impressions. From the impressions, a stone cast is made. Rubberized mouth guard material is heated, placed on top of the stone cast, and sucked down with a vacuformer. We trim away excess materials for a comfortable fit. Finally, the patient returns for a fitting at which time, adjustments can be made.
We use a similar process to make night guards, although different materials are used. If we are worried about TMJ issues, the stone cast will be sent to a dental lab for processing. In this case, we also take an impression of the opposing teeth so that our office and the dental lab can make sure any issues with a patient’s bite are taken into consideration.
Custom mouth guards are much less bulky than store bought versions (which are better than nothing). With kids especially, something that fits better is more likely to be worn. Prevention is key!