A Guide to Mouth Guards
Mouth guards are appliances that are worn over the teeth, and are used to prevent injuries to the teeth during sports or as a result of grinding of your teeth.
There are three different types of mouth guards:
1. Stock mouth guards / protectors
These are available at sports stores, and are quite affordable. They are ready to wear, and come pre fabricated. However, because they are pre-formed, they can’t be made to adjust to your teeth. They also cause difficulties in breathing and talking, and the protection they offer is minimal. They are also bulky and cumbersome, and for these reasons, are not recommended by dentists.
2. Boil and bite mouth guards / protectors
These are also commonly available at sports stores, and may fit your teeth better than stock protectors. Here, the protector is made of a thermoplastic material, which is first softened in hot water. Then, it is placed inside the mouth, and made to fit the teeth manually.
3. Custom fitted mouth guards / protectors
These are the most expensive type of mouth protectors, but they are also the most comfortable and the best fitting. They offer better protection than other mouth guards. Custom fitted protectors are custom designed, and are produced in a professional dental laboratory based on information given by your dentist. To create a customer protector, your dentist will first make an impression of the teeth. Using a special material, a dental technician will then mold the mouth guard over the model.
A dentist will be able to recommend the mouth guard that is best suited for you. Generally, mouth guards are used to protect only the upper teeth, but if you have a fixed dental appliance fitted on your lower jaw or dental braces, a dentist may design a mouth protector for the lower teeth too. An ideal mouth guard is one that is comfortable, durable and easy to maintain. It should not cause any difficulties in breathing or talking. In case of bruxism or teeth grinding, your dentist may recommend a special dental appliance that functions like a mouth guard to prevent the teeth from being damaged by the grinding. This is called a bite splint or a nocturnal bite plate.
Eligibility for mouth guards
Anyone who plays rough contact sports like boxing, ice hockey, lacrosse, football, soccer or field hockey can benefit by using mouth guards. Both children and adults can use these. Sports enthusiasts who indulge in non contact sports like gymnastics or leisure activities like mountain biking that may potentially cause injury to the mouth, will find that a mouth guard offers great protection. In case of people who have the habit of clenching or grinding their teeth at night, a nocturnal bite plate should be used to prevent damage to the teeth.
Uses of mouth guards
Mouth guards can prevent or limit the damage caused by injuries to the mouth, including the tongue, teeth, lips and soft tissues. Mouth guards can prevent broken teeth or loss of a tooth due to injury. It also prevents nerve damage.
Mouth guards in combination other dental appliances
Mouth guards can be worn even if a person already wears orthodontic braces or other dental appliances. Mouth injuries can damage these dental appliances, and the damage can be limited or avoided by using a mouth guard. Ask your dentist to recommend a mouth guard that is best suited to protect your dental appliances. Removable appliances like retainers must not be used during contact sports or other activities where your mouth is likely to be injured.
Caring for your mouth guard
Mouth guards can protect your mouth for a long time, if you maintain it using these tips.
- Rinse your appliance either with a mouth rinse, or with plain cold water before and after you place it in your mouth.
- Clean your mouth guard just like you clean your teeth, using a tooth brush and toothpaste.
- Once in a while, wash the mouth guard in soapy water.
- Always store a mouth guard in a sturdy, perforated box. The perforation enables air to circulate inside the box, limiting damage.
- Keep away from extreme temperature and direct sun light to retain the shape of the mouth guard.
- Look for signs of wear and tear in your mouth guard. If there are tears or if it has become uncomfortable, replace the mouth guard.
- Get the mouth guard examined by your dentist at every dental check up.