Dental Mouthguards 101
Simply put, a mouthguard is a dental device that is designed to cover your teeth and protect your teeth, gums, and cheeks from trauma that your mouth endures due to actions like grinding or playing sports.
Why would I need to wear a mouthguard?
Both children and adults can be candidates for a dental mouthguard. Your dentist, or another healthcare provider, might recommend wearing a dental mouthguard for the following reasons:
- If you grind your teeth – bruxism can happen in both awake and sleep states;
- If you play a contact sport that puts you at a higher risk of being hit in the face / head (think: soccer, football, hockey, lacrosse etc.);
- If you participate in non-contact sports, but activities that may present a high risk of falling (think: ice skating, roller skating, gymnastics etc.).
What are my dental mouthguard options?
There are several different dental mouthguard options. The different appliance options may serve various purposes. Here’s a look at what options are available in today’s dental mouthguard market:
- Custom-Made Night Mouthguard: Your dentist can take an impression of your teeth and create a mold to design a custom-made mouthguard that comfortably fits your teeth and mouth. This may be a more costly option, but custom-made guards offer the best fit and protection since they’re created specifically with your needs in mind.
- Boil-and-Bite Mouthguard: This type of dental mouthguard is made from thermoplastic material. The mouthguard is placed in hot (not boiling) water to soften, and then placed into the mouth and shaped around the teeth through the help of tongue and finger pressure.
- Stock Mouthguard Protectors: This is the protection device that you’ll often find in department stores, sporting goods stores or pharmacies. It’s a preformed device that comes ready to wear and is typically the most inexpensive option. However, because there isn’t much that can be done in terms of adjusting their fit and because they don’t offer a high level of protection, most dentists will refrain from recommending a stock mouthguard.
- At HDG, we can also use our CEREC® to scan for a mouthguard. Once we perform the scan, we send that scan out to the lab to make the actual mouthguard.
The important factors to remember are that an effective mouthguard should be: comfortable, durable, easy to clean, and should not impair your breathing or speech. Your dentist will talk to you about your options and help you to identify which solution will be best for you. Lastly, if you tend to grind your teeth at night, then you may need a special appliance called a nocturnal bite plate or bite splint, which is designed to prevent tooth damage.
How To Care for Your Mouthguard
Here are some general guidelines for how to care for your mouthguard:
- Make sure to rinse your mouthguard with cold water or a mouth rinse before and after each use; you may also clean it with a mild soap and a toothbrush.
- It’s best to clean the mouthguard in cool, soapy water; make sure to rinse it thoroughly.
- We recommend placing the mouthguard in a firm, perforated container to store or transport it. Your mouthguard needs to “breathe” and these containers permit air circulation and help to prevent damage. If you’re wearing an acrylic mouthguard, keep it in fresh clean water.
- Make sure that you keep your mouthguard away from extreme temperatures (direct sunlight, hot surfaces, hot water) – this will protect the device guard and reduce the change of distorting its shape.
- Be mindful of checking your mouthguard for general wear. If you notice tears or find holes, or if it becomes loose-fitting or creates pain or discomfort, then it is time to replace it!
- We would encourage you to bring your mouthguard to your dental appointments so that your dentist can examine it.
As always, please contact us with any questions you have about mouthguards or any other dental devices or appliances – we’re here and happy to assist!