When most people think about mouthguards, the first thing that comes to mind are the mouthguards they see their favorite athletes wear during sporting events. While protecting teeth from injury during sports is one of the main mouthguard functions, mouthguards can also protect the teeth from grinding and help treat mild sleep apnea and snoring. But not all mouthguards are made the same. While you may be able to find low-cost stock mouthguards, they may not provide the protection you really need. At Soundview Family Dental, our caring professionals are here to answer all your mouthguard questions as well as fit you for a custom mouthguard.
Your dentist creates a custom mouthguard by making an impression of your teeth. This allows the mouthguard to fit perfectly in your mouth and offers the best protection, whether for sports or teeth grinding. For cases of sleep apnea and snoring, a custom mouthguard is necessary to ensure that your jaw moves forward during sleep without damaging your teeth.
Are custom mouthguards worth it?
Custom mouthguards fitted to your teeth and mouth are the highest quality mouthguards and offer the best protection from injury and teeth grinding. Because they form to your teeth, they can stay in place without interfering in speech. While the initial cost is higher than other mouthguard options, the protection they offer is worth the added expense. Other mouthguard options do not offer high-quality protection and can increase your risk of dental injury and tooth damage from grinding, leading to cavities and tooth damage. This then could require restoration treatments and additional costs. In the long run, the upfront cost for custom-fit mouthguards can save you from future dental expenses.
Over-the-counter or stock mouthguards are a one-size-fits-all option that you can purchase at your neighborhood or sporting goods store for a relatively low price. These are pre-formed and ready-to-wear mouthguards designed primarily for athletics. Unfortunately, because they are not made for your teeth, they are often bulky and do not fit well. It is also often hard to keep them in place. In order to keep them in your mouth, you must bite down constantly. They are uncomfortable, can make it difficult to talk, and, in some cases, can trigger gagging when worn. Because of their poor fit, these mouthguards also offer the least amount of protection for your teeth.
Lip protectors, also known as pacifier mouthpieces, are another form of stock mouthguard that provides an outer piece to protect the lips. Like traditional stock guards, they must be held in place by biting down, making it difficult to talk to teammates without removing the guard. As a stock mouthguard, they also offer minimal protection.
Boil-and-bite mouthguards are similar to stock mouthguards in that they are available to purchase over the counter. However, these mouthguards are made of a thermoplastic material that softens when placed in hot water. After softening the mouthguard in water, you place it in your mouth and, using your fingers, press the guard onto your teeth and then bite down. Once set, you remove and run the guard under cold water to fully set. While these guards offer better comfort than stock mouthguards, they do not offer much more protection. Molding them to your bite changes the thickness in certain areas, reducing the level of protection and force distribution.
Shell liner mouthguards
Shell liner mouthguards are similar to boil-and-bite. However, they are lined with an acrylic gel or rubber that molds to your teeth. While they do provide a better fit than stock mouthguards, they are often bulky and do not offer the best protection for your teeth and jaw.
Soft vs. hard mouthguards
If you are looking to address bruxism or nighttime teeth grinding, you will have the option of soft or hard mouthguards. These guards are made differently for both comfort and for the severity of teeth grinding.
Soft mouthguards are made of a flexible soft material and are the most commonly used teeth grinding guards because they are the most comfortable and easy to adjust to. They are best used for those with mild to moderate teeth grinding or teeth clenching. Unfortunately, the soft material makes them a poor choice for heavy teeth grinding. They have a shorter life span than the harder material variety, meaning you will need to replace them more often to provide optimal teeth protection.
Hard mouthguards are made for those with severe teeth grinding issues. They are a rigid acrylic material and are made to hold up to severe grinding. They are often bulkier than soft guards. They can be uncomfortable to wear at first and can take time to adjust to, but they provide the ultimate protection to your teeth.
Benefits of wearing mouthguards
Whether you decide to wear a mouthguard for sports, teeth grinding, sleep apnea, or snoring, mouthguards offer a wide variety of benefits for your teeth, your mouth, and your overall health.
- Reduces damage to teeth – Mouthguards protect your teeth from injury during sporting events, but also from wear damage due to teeth grinding. Regular grinding can wear down your enamel and increase your risk of cavities and other dental concerns. Wearing a nightly mouthguard reduces those risks.
- Prevents regular snoring or nighttime breathing issues – Special mouthguards that work to bring your lower jaw forward while you sleep can help to eliminate snoring and treat breathing issues associated with mild sleep apnea.
- Reduces jaw tension and pain – Many people grinding their teeth or clench their jaws when they sleep, resulting in jaw pain and discomfort, both during the night and when they wake up. Wearing a night mouthguard helps reduce the tension and pain in the jaw, allowing you to wake pain-free.
- Prevents headaches – If you wake up with headaches every day, chances are you are grinding your teeth at night. Wearing a mouthguard reduces the tension grinding causes, reducing your risk of morning headaches.
- Reduces risk of serious injury – For athletes playing contact sports, such as football or hockey, concussions are often a serious risk. Recent studies have shown that wearing a mouthguard can reduce the risk of concussions and protect the teeth and jaw from injury.
While mouthguards come in a variety of options, a custom-fit guard provides the most comfort and protection, no matter what the reason is you need a mouthguard. At Soundview Family Dental, our caring team of professionals is here to answer all your mouthguard questions, help you find the right mouthguard for your needs, and to make sure your mouthguard fits your teeth and bite just right. To learn more, call our office today at (425) 563-6360 or visit us online to schedule an appointment.