In the same way that brushing and flossing protect your teeth against tooth decay, mouth guards and bite guards shield them from damaging outside forces. These devices are designed for covering teeth and forming a protective barrier so that teeth do not crack or chip.
Mouth guards and bite guards are sometimes terms that are used interchangeably. Some other names include dental guards, teeth guards, stress guards or bite splints. They are all basically the same thing, but different terms may be used for them, depending upon their purpose.
The two main reasons why someone might need a Mouth Guard are:
- Playing sports that may cause mouth trauma
- Teeth grinding, or bruxism
Types of Mouth Guards
Here are a few of the most common types of mouth guards:
Over-The-Counter Mouth Guards
This type of mouth guard is commonly found at drugstores and sporting goods stores. They are typically made from plastic or rubber and are available in various sizes. They are designed for use in sports activities, rather than for dental problems like bruxism.
Thermoplastic Mouth Guards
Most drug stores sell “boil-and-bite” mouth guards constructed from a thermoplastic material that softens up when in contact with hot water. You would then place it onto your top teeth, biting down until it becomes solid.
This type of mouth guard is somewhat better than a stock mouth guard because it is custom fitted. It provides greater comfort and reasonable protection for sports activities. However, it is not very practical for those with bruxism.
Custom-Fitted Mouth Guards
If you have a serious dental problem, it makes more sense to go with a mouth guard provided by your dentist. This is particularly true for problems like teeth grinding.
Custom bite guards are made in a dental laboratory from hard acrylic or plastic.
The steps for getting a custom bite guard are as follows:
- You will undergo a dental examination so that your dentist can make the determination if a bite guard will help you.
- Some 3D images or impressions are made to note the precise positions of your teeth. Only one impression is needed, since bite guards typically go only over the top teeth.
- A dental technician will fabricate your custom bite guard in a dental lab.
- You return for a second appointment to pick up your bite guard. Your dentist will check to make sure that it fits properly, making any necessary adjustments at that time.
- You may need to bring your bite guard in during a dental appointment periodically to ensure that it fits properly and is in good condition.
Mouth Guard Care
If you receive a custom-made mouth guard, you can expect it to last for a long time when you care for it correctly. These mouth guards need to be rinsed with water between uses. Brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush and gentle soap.