Just as regularly brushing and flossing your teeth protects them from tooth decay, mouthguards can protect them from harmful external forces. These dental devices are created to cover teeth to provide a protective shield, preventing them from cracking or chipping.

Both mouthguards and bite guards are words that are sometimes used interchangeably. Other common names for these devices are teeth guards, dental guards, bite splints or stress guards. Each of these are essentially the same thing, although different terms may be used to describe them, depending upon their function.

Why would I need a mouthguard?

One of the main reasons why people get mouthguards is to protect their teeth when they take part in sports activities that can involve violent collisions.

Another common reason to get a mouthguard is to protect your teeth from bruxism, or teeth grinding. Bruxism commonly occurs at night when you are sleeping and may not even realize it. By wearing a mouthguard, or nightguard, you can prevent side effects like painful or sore jaw muscles.

Types of Mouthguards

Some of the more common types of mouthguards include:

  • Over-the-counter mouthguards

  • Thermoplastic mouthguards

  • Custom-fitted mouthguards

Over-the-Counter Mouthguards

You can often find this kind of mouthguard at your local drugstore or sporting goods store. They are normally made from a plastic material, or rubber, and come in a number of sizes. These are typically used in sports activities instead of for dental problems like teeth grinding.

Thermoplastic Mouthguards

Your local drugstore probably offers “boil-and-bite” mouthguards that are made from a special thermoplastic substance that becomes pliable when it is dipped in hot water. Once it becomes pliable, you would place your thermoplastic mouthguard over your upper teeth and bite down until it solidifies.

Thermoplastic mouthguards are normally superior to stock mouthguards since they can be custom fitted. They offer enhanced comfort and a good amount of protection for playing sports. However, this type of mouthguard is not recommended for those who grind their teeth.

Custom-Fitted Mouthguards

If you have an ongoing dental problem, it is usually better to use a mouthguard that your dentist provides to you, especially if you are dealing with a problem like teeth grinding.

Dental laboratories make most custom bite guards from a strong acrylic or plastic material.

If you’re going to be getting a custom mouthguard, you will need to undergo a dental exam. Your dentist will create an impression of your teeth. A lab tech will create your custom mouthguard in a dental laboratory.

You would return for a follow-up appointment and receive your mouthguard. Your dentist will carefully check its fit to ensure that it fits snugly. If any adjustments are needed, they will make them at this time.

You will probably take your mouthguard with you from time to time if your dentist needs to make any periodic adjustments to ensure proper fit and that it remains in good condition.

Mouthguard Care

Most custom-fitted mouthguards can be expected to last for a long time if cared for properly. Between uses, they should be rinsed with water. Use a gentle soap and a soft toothbrush to brush your custom-made mouthguard.

When your mouthguard is not in use, store it in a clean container that has holes in it to allow for air circulation. Examine your mouthguard occasionally to look for any tears or holes. If you should notice any damage to your mouthguard, bring it in for a replacement.