Mouthguards can be for sports, or for oral habits like grinding and clenching. We tend to call those for sports “mouthguards”, and the appliances that help with clenching and grinding “nightguards“.
Sports mouthguards are a very important piece of sports equipment. Our dentists have had the sad task of helping some of our patients who have gotten an elbow in the face while playing basketball, or a hockey puck in the mouth during a friendly game. The results of these accidents can be painful, can mean many procedures at a dental office and with specialists, and can be very costly to fix. Even with the best treatment, once the damage is done to the bone or teeth, the results are just never the same as what nature gave us in the first place. We apologize for the graphic nature of some of the following photographs, but we think it’s important that you see examples of some of the injuries that a proper sports mouthguard could have prevented.
Because we care about our patients’ safety, our dentists recommend a sports mouthguard for anyone (child, teen, or adult) who plays sports where contact or trauma to the face is possible. There are many types of mouthguards, and we understand how confusing it can be to decide which one is best, especially when some are cheaper than others.
Here is some information that may help you make the best choice for you or your child.
What is a good sports mouthguard?
A good sports mouthguard is comfortable, and snug. The sports player should want to wear it (comfort), and have resistance when trying to remove it with their tongue (good snug fit) or else it stands no chance at protecting the teeth during impact.
What is the difference between pressure formed and vacuum formed mouthguards?
Both types of mouthguards are custom made to fit your mouth and better than boil’n’bites and other non-custom ones. Vacuum formed ones used to be the standard, and they are made by a vacuum pulling down the plastic onto the stone model of your teeth. They are still good, but pressure formed ones are best, especially for higher impact sports. Pressure formed mouthguards are made by pressure pushing the heated plastic onto the stone model of your teeth. This way of making mouthguards leads to a better, more snug fit. As well, it allows several layers of plastic to be fused together and not be too bulky so the mouthguard is comfortable yet protective. In our office, we only prescribe pressure formed mouthguards because we think they best protect our patients.
It takes two appointments to have your sports mouthguard ready for you. The first appointment takes about 30 minutes – molds of your teeth (upper and lower) and a record of how you bite will be taken and they will be sent to the lab for mouthguard fabrication. In one week or less, the second appointment takes place (about 20 minutes) and at this time the dentist will assess how the sports mouthguard fits and give you instructions on how to use it and take care of it.
Most of us grind and/or clench our teeth, especially in our sleep. Our dentists see the wear patterns on many of our patients, and sometimes these involuntary habits can lead to broken fillings, chipped teeth, even deep tooth fractures.
Nightguards are plastic appliances that can protect the teeth from the forces of clenching and grinding. They can be made in different designs and sizes depending on whether the problem is clenching or grinding, or both.
The flat splint nightguard is a standard appliance that protects teeth from the effects of grinding (bruxism). It fits over your upper or lower teeth, and covers the biting surface of all the teeth in the arch. The dentist will adjust the flat splint nightguard so when you bite down it feels even all the way around.
An NTI or anterior deprogrammer nightguard is made when the main problem is clenching. In these cases, patient do not have much wear on their teeth. Instead, they have a very deep cusp/fossa relationship of the teeth (upper and lower teeth fit really tightly together) and complain of pain in the muscles of their jaw, especially when they wake up as if they have been “clenching all night.” This type of nightguard is smaller than the flat splint one, and fits over the front teeth (upper or lower). The goal is to have the patient bite into this nightguard only with their front teeth, thereby leaving space between the back teeth. This has the result, in most people, of diminishing the amount of force generated by chewing muscles. Since these muscles do not contract as much, they don’t work as hard and the patient clenches less and wakes up with less muscle pain. It is important to only wear this type of nightguard only for 8 hours or less per day, to minimize the risk of the back teeth erupting further.
Both types of nightguards may need adjustments after you start to use them, and our dentists will assess and adjust them to help you get more comfortable. Our dentists will instruct you on how to use them and how to take care of them. A nightguard can last for many years, though that depends on how well you take care of it, and on the severity of the grinding or clenching.