Mouth guards are an effective tool for treating a variety of dental issues. A good mouth guard can help prevent persistent pain and tooth damage that will continue to get worse if left untreated. The quality of a mouth guard largely depends on the accuracy of the impression you get, so follow the instructions closely for an effective dental tool.
Types of Mouth Guards
Mouth guards on the market fall under one of three main categories: stock mouth guards, boil and bite mouth guards, and custom mouth guards.
Stock Mouth Guards
Stock mouth guards are inexpensive preformed teeth guards that are widely available at a variety of stores. While they are the least expensive option, they don’t allow for any customization, and for this reason, aren’t usually recommended by dental professionals.
Boil and Bite Mouth Guards
Boil and bite mouth guards are a better option than stock mouth guards, as they allow for some customization. They’re made with a thermoplastic material that becomes flexible in hot water, which allows it to conform to the shape of your teeth. Once you’ve customized it to your mouth, it cools and keeps its shape for repeated use.
Custom Mouth Guard
Custom mouth guards are the best option because they’re specially made for your mouth. In the past, the only way to get the perfect fit was to have an impression made by the dentist. Now, take-home kits are available, which allow you to take your own impression at home.
Why use a mouth guard?
There are several conditions and situations in which a mouth guard is effective.
Bruxism describes when someone habitually clenches or grinds their teeth. It most often occurs at night, during sleep, but also could occur during the day. Over time, teeth grinding could lead to variety of symptoms, some of which may be painful.
Symptoms of bruxism include:
- Earache or headache, often located at the temples
- Damage to the teeth
- Disturbed sleep
- Tight jaw muscles or lock jaw
- Tooth pain and sensitivity
You may be more likely to develop bruxism if you experience high levels of stress or anxiety, take medication or recreational drugs, have family members with bruxism, or have certain disorders, such as epilepsy or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
An occlusal splint, also called a bite guard or night guard, may help prevent or alleviate some symptoms of teeth grinding.
Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are a group of more than 30 disorders, including osteoarthritis, dislocated jaw, and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). They affect the temporomandibular joint, which connects the jaw to the skull, and is important for chewing and talking, Symptoms of TMD include dizziness, headaches, earaches, and difficulty hearing, which may lessen as a result of wearing a night guard.
Sleep apnea is a sleep-related breathing disorder that causes those who suffer from it to temporarily stop breathing while they sleep, depriving their brains of enough oxygen. This often leads to extreme snoring and restless sleep, and may increase the risk of stroke and heart disease.
A custom mouth guard may help mild sleep apnea by pushing the lower jaw and tongue forward, which allows more air to enter the body and supply the brain.
Participating in Sports
A mouth guard is an important piece of equipment for athletes. It protects their teeth from damage and protects their lips and tongue from getting injured by your teeth. Mouth guards are especially important in full-contact sports, such as football, rugby, martial arts, boxing, and roller derby, as they pose a greater risk of facial injury.
How To Take a Mouth Guard Impression
It’s important that you know what to do when taking an impression of your mouth. Any mistakes in your impression will be present in your mouth guard and make it less effective. Use the following guide to help you take an accurate impression, but remember that individual instructions vary and you should defer to the product instructions if there are any discrepancies.
The Right Fit
The best impression tray for your mouth will fit around your teeth and allow some room between your teeth and the side of the tray. If your teeth touch the impression tray, the tray is too small. Try each one you have to find the right one.
Preparation is Key
Working quickly, make sure the putty is thoroughly mixed. It should be consistent in color and texture all the way through. Roll it into a log with the same thickness from end to end, and place it in the impression tray.
Make the Impression
In one smooth motion with two hands, press your teeth straight into the tray so that the putty extends past your gums. Pull it straight off in the opposite direction while leaving the putty in the tray. It might be a little tricky at first, but try not to disturb the impression of your teeth.
If you get a good impression, the dental lab should craft a well-fitting and durable mouth guard, which can make a world of difference for your teeth and your general wellbeing.