Bite guards are coverings worn in the mouth to protect the teeth from getting damaged. They can be prescribed to prevent injury during sports activities (sports guard) or to be worn at night to prevent teeth grinding (night guard).
Teeth grinding can have more of a negative impact on the teeth than one might think. Putting stress on the teeth repeatedly can cause them to fracture. The motion of biting and grinding the teeth throughout the night not only puts a strain on the teeth, but on the jaw muscles as well, resulting in a sore jaw in the morning. Teeth grinding often accompanies a TMJ disorder, but is not always caused by it. It’s important to try to treat the main cause of teeth grinding, but in the meantime, a bite guard can help.
Stock: come preformed and ready-to-wear. These are the most inexpensive type of bite guard and can be bought over-the-counter. While this may be convenient, stock mouth guards present the disadvantage of being the most ill-fitting and uncomfortable mouth guard, as they are bulky and little can be done to adjust the fit. They may make breathing and talking difficult.
Boil and bite: offer a better fit than stock mouth guards. They are made from a thermoplastic material, which can be molded after they are placed in hot water to soften. This allows for more of a customized fit when the softened material is placed in the mouth and shaped around the teeth.
Custom-fitted: only available at a dentist office and provide the most in comfort and protection. To have custom-fitted mouth guards made, the dentist will first take an impression of the teeth. The mouth guard is molded over the model using a special material. This type of mouth guard is the most expensive, but it is the most comfortable, allowing for comfortable breathing and speaking, and does the best job of protecting the teeth.
Generally, mouth guards are worn only on the upper teeth, but in some instances, a mouth guard for the lower teeth can be made as well. This could be the case if braces are worn or if there is another fixed dental appliance present on the lower jaw. The most effective mouth guard will be comfortable, resist tears, be durable and easy to clean, and should not restrict breathing or speaking.