Uses for Mouth Guards
Frequently our patients have questions about mouth guards. There are two kinds of mouth guards you may need: mouth guards for teeth grinding and mouth guards for contact sports. In this article, we’ll talk about both kinds and how to get the right one for your needs.
Mouth Guards for Teeth Grinding
Many people occasionally clench their jaws when angry or frustrated. But for some people, jaw clenching or grinding the teeth together can become a habit. The term for this condition is bruxism , and it can occur when you are awake or asleep. Some people think that daytime bruxism is easier to deal with because you can make the conscious choice to stop grinding when you’re awake.
Unfortunately,many bruxism sufferers find that they often grind their teeth without even realizing it, making it hard to alter their behavior. Meanwhile, sleep bruxism can be even more problematic, as a patient can easily grind their teeth all night without knowing.
What are the Symptoms of Bruxism?
Because bruxism is often an unconscious process, here are some symptoms to look out for:
- Waking up with teeth clenched together
- A partner says that they can hear your teeth grinding together when you sleep
- Repeated problems with chipped, fractured, loose, or flattened teeth (your dentist may bring this to your attention)
- Pain or sensitivity in your teeth
- Your jaw feels tight or tired frequently
- Pain or soreness in your jaw, neck, or face
- Headaches, especially those that start at the temples
- Irritation on the inside of your cheek from accidental biting
- Disruption to your sleep, poor sleep quality, or waking up frequently
- Tooth enamel that seems unusually worn, despite good dental hygiene (again, your dentist may notice this symptom before you do)
Do You Need a Mouth Guard for Sleeping?
Although tooth grinding also happens during the day, mouth guards are typically used at night when grinding is more damaging. Daytime grinding is usually interrupted by activities like talking, eating, and drinking, but tooth grinding in your sleep can go on for hours without a break. If your bruxism is causing dental problems like cracked or broken teeth, your dentist may prescribe a mouth guard, or bite splint.
This is a small device you place in your mouth that keeps the teeth apart at night by causing you to bite down on a piece of malleable material instead of grinding the teeth together.
Can You Buy a Nighttime Mouth Guard at the Store?
Yes, these are sold in many drug stores, big box stores, and online. However, these ready-made guards are not the ideal solution for most people. Often these kits come with instructions for heating the
guard in boiling water or the microwave, then biting into it to “customize” the fit.
But this doesn’t always give you a perfect fit, just a better one than the original shape. On the other hand, your dentist
will make a mold from your teeth and craft a mouth guard that fits securely, ensuring it doesn’t move around and cause irritation when you sleep at night. Additionally, over-the-counter mouth protectors
tend to be made of inexpensive materials that may break down and fall apart within a few months. Professionally made mouth guards are more durable and will last much longer, saving you money and time spent
shaping new guards. Most importantly, better materials will provide stronger protection against severe grinding than an inexpensive mouth guard from the store.
Visiting a dentist will also help ensure that you have the correct diagnosis. Sometimes teeth suffer damage for reasons other than tooth grinding, and buying a nighttime mouth guard won’t help if there are other causes of your damaged teeth. Before getting a mouth protector, you should be certain you’re treating the right condition.
Will Your Dental or Medical Insurance Pay for a Mouth Guard?
It depends on your policy, but in most cases, yes, your insurance will cover a custom mouth guard if your dentist or doctor deems it medically necessary. In some situations, it may be covered by a medical
policy instead of a dental one if you were referred to us by a doctor for a condition such as TMJ or severe headaches. If you have questions about what your insurance will cover, our office staff is always
happy to help.
Mouth Guards for Contact Sports
The other category of mouth guards is used when you are awake and at increased risk of suffering a mouth or tooth injury – for example, if you play contact sports like football or hockey, or take martial
arts or self-defense classes that involve sparring with a partner, etc. Usually, the coach or instructor of these activities will tell participants they need to get a mouth guard to protect their teeth.
This is good advice! But often it results in athletes buying an inexpensive mouth guard at a local store. In many cases, the gym or school that runs the activity sells these inexpensive mouth guards or kits and participants simply buy what’s available.
These inexpensive mouth protectors come in two varieties – a one-size-fits-almost-no-one model that can easily slide off the teeth, and a moldable model that you heat and bite into like the nighttime
mouth guards. The moldable type is slightly better, but again, you still may not get the best fit. Sometimes the material hardens unevenly, or it’s too soft, allowing the shape to continue to change with
use. This can cause gum irritation, or the mouth guard may not fully cover all the teeth, leaving you vulnerable to injury. Your dentist can also make you a professional contact sports mouth guard, using
the same technique of building a mold of all your teeth. This will be a durable guard that fully covers all your teeth and offers superior protection over the store-bought options.
If You Have a Nighttime Mouth Guard for Grinding, Can You Wear That While Playing Sports?
No, that is not advisable. It’s important to understand that these two kinds of mouth guards have very different purposes and designs. A nighttime mouth guard is intended to keep the teeth apart when
your jaws clench. A sports mouth guard is intended to protect your teeth from external forces, like a soccer ball slamming into your face or a sparring partner accidentally making contact with your mouth.
The nighttime mouth guard does not have shock absorbers to dampen the impact of being hit in the mouth, but the sports mouth guard does. As a result, you will need a separate guard for sports activities.
Contact a Gwinnett County Dentist About Mouth Guards Today
If you have questions or concerns about mouth guards, tooth grinding, or other dental health issues, please call Great Care Family Dentistry to schedule an appointment today. We’ll evaluate your symptoms
and needs, and if a mouth guard is in order, we can begin the process of creating a custom one for you right away.