A mouthguard is a dental device that covers your teeth and protects them, your tongue, your cheeks, and your gums from injury or damage.
A mouthguard can be beneficial in preserving your oral health if you:
- Grind or clench your teeth, especially at night
- Participate in noncontact activities or sports with a high fall risk, like ice skating, skateboarding, biking, or gymnastics
- Participate in contact sports and activities with a high risk of facial injuries, such as hockey, soccer, football, basketball, and baseball or softball
Who should wear a mouthguard and why?
Often taken for granted, your teeth are critical to much of your daily functioning. Not only do they provide the support and structure for your face and jaw, but they help make sure you can chew, bite, speak, and even breathe correctly.
Anyone of any age can benefit from the added safety a mouthguard provides in various situations. Protecting the primary (or baby) teeth in children is important to help ensure the proper development of bone structures and oral function as they grow, while protecting adult teeth helps them last a lifetime—they’re the only ones you get! Strong, healthy teeth also play a psychological role in your self-confidence and how you interact with those around you, so protecting your teeth from an increased risk of damage or injury is paramount.
Teeth can be damaged by excessive pressure, such as from teeth grinding or clenching, or from the impact of contact sports or other physical injuries.
Mouthguards can help protect your teeth from injury or damage by preventing:
- Soft tissue damage to the tongue, gums, lips, and inside the cheeks
- Chipped or lost teeth
- Nerve damage to a tooth
Damage to your teeth cannot only be painful and unattractive, but it can be costly as well. Repairing or replacing teeth with procedures like restorations, extractions, or implants can be expensive and inconvenient, so it’s often better to just prevent damage in the first place.
Mouthguards can be especially important if you wear braces. Custom-fitted mouthguards from your dentist or orthodontist can cover top and bottom teeth to protect not only the soft tissues in your mouth from being cut or injured but also any orthodontic hardware or devices from breaking.
The Different Types of Mouthguards
Mouthguards protect your teeth from damage caused by excessive pressure, grinding, or impact, reducing the intensity by absorbing some of the force and spreading it out across a greater area. A mouthguard for bruxism also keeps top and bottom teeth separated, reducing the effect of grinding and clenching.
Mouthguards can also help alleviate mild sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when the tongue and jaw fall out of alignment while sleeping, closing off your airway and causing you to stop breathing temporarily. Sleep apnea is a potentially serious condition that can disrupt your sleep and negatively impact your overall health.
Although they also protect your teeth, sleep apnea mouthguards primarily work by pushing the lower jaw and tongue forward so your airway remains open while you sleep. Some include a strap that goes around the head and chin to re-adjust the lower jaw for a similar effect. This can also help reduce snoring, which can also be a side effect of sleep apnea
Most mouthguards are designed to protect only the upper teeth because these teeth stick out slightly more than the bottom teeth and are at greater risk for impact, but if you require a mouthguard to alleviate bruxism or sleep apnea, or if you have braces, your dentist will likely recommend protection for both the top and bottom teeth.
Any mouthguard you choose should be comfortable, durable, and easy to clean, and it should not impede your breathing or speech.
There are three main designs of mouthguards:
- Stock. Stock mouthguards are preformed mouthguards that can be found over the counter, and although they come in a variety of sizes, they are not molded to your mouth, so they can be bulky and fit poorly, making it difficult to talk and breathe. Stock mouthguards are the most inexpensive but are best suited for occasional use.
- Boil-and-bite. Boil-and-bite mouthguards are made of a thermoplastic material that can be softened and shaped to fit your mouth by “boiling” the mouthguard and then “biting” into it. This will provide a somewhat better fit than stock mouthguards, but not as snug as a custom-fitted one. Slightly more expensive, these mouthguards can also be found off the shelf and are more suitable for regular use in sports or other high-impact activities.
- Custom-fitted. These mouthguards, available only from a dental or orthodontic professional, are just that—custom-fitted to your mouth. They are made with a mold of your teeth for a mouthguard that fits the structure of your mouth and teeth perfectly. They do cost more, but they offer the best fit and protection and can be designed to fit your specific need, whether that’s protection from injury or for night use to prevent teeth grinding and clenching.
Stock and boil-and-bite mouthguards will be less expensive and can be found at nearly any drugstore or sporting goods store, but they will offer less protection and fit less comfortably than a custom-fitted one. And if you have bruxism or sleep apnea, your dentist will recommend a custom-fitted mouthguard because they fit better, are more comfortable, and easier to keep in place, especially while you sleep.
How to Care for your Mouthguard
Even with good oral hygiene, your mouth is an ideal place for bacteria to thrive. Mouthguards can not only pick up all of the bacteria from your mouth, but they can also develop some of their own if not cleaned properly. In addition to brushing and flossing your teeth before putting in a mouthguard, your mouthguard should be washed in warm soapy water and rinsed in cool water before and after every use, then allowed to air dry. (You can also brush your mouthguard as you would your teeth, with a toothbrush and toothpaste.) Your mouthguard should be kept out of reach of pets and out of extreme heat, including hot water or sunlight (heat can warp the mouthguard and change its shape, so it longer fits properly) and stored in a sturdy, vented plastic case when you are not using it.
Custom-fitted mouthguards can last several years before showing signs of wear or needing to be replaced, but stock and boil-and-bite mouthguards will need to be replaced more frequently. Children and teens will need to replace mouthguards more often to accommodate their growing teeth and mouth. To make sure your mouthguard is still fitting properly, bring it with you to your regular dental checkups. Your dentist will be able to tell you if and when you need to replace it.
Mouthguards at Dental Depot DFW
The caring team of professionals at Dental Depot DFW is committed to protecting not just your teeth but your overall dental health. In addition to routine dental checkups, cleanings, and preventative care, you and your family can also visit us for the custom-fitted mouthguards you need to stay active and stay safe. With appointments available six days a week at any of our 5 DFW metro locations, we also make it fast, easy, and convenient for you to get your mouthguards and get on your way.
At Dental Depot DFW, we know that dental emergencies and injuries can happen even with the best protection, so we make sure you can receive the care you need when you need it with same-day emergency dental services and Saturday hours. And, thanks to a full staff of on-site specialists, we also provide all the services you need to fix the problem, all under one roof, from cosmetic dentistry and restorations like crowns or bridges to implants and facial trauma care.
Let Dental Depot DFW be your family’s partner for exceptional dental care. Visit us at dentaldepotdfw.com/request-appointment to find the location nearest you and schedule your first appointment. We can’t wait to see you!