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Night Guard Material: What is in a night guard?

Night Guard Material: What is in a night guard?

24 August 2022

All of us take our healthcare seriously. The value of our lives is so often dictated by our well-being that it’s of vital importance that every care is taken to protect our health now and in the future.

The choices we make today can have lasting impacts on us. This is especially true of the substances our dentists use when they manufacture our mouth guards. There can be many reasons for us having to wear a dental night guard. Sometimes referred to as a teeth or tooth guard, these orthodontic appliances can provide immense relief from the effects of grinding our teeth. One of their most effective uses is in the mitigation of the pain that can be caused by the excessive clenching of the jaw during the night when we are asleep.

There are over-the-counter guards available but the most effective mouth guards are those that have been custom fitted by a qualified dental professional.

A custom-fit night guard is one of the best treatments for temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or TMD), bruxism, and their related effects. Guards such as these also stop and prevent the dental damage done to the teeth by excessive grinding.

Excellent as these devices are, it’s important that we have as much information about them as possible before deciding which mouth guard is best for us.

Understanding what our mouth guards are made of can only be of value if we are to make the best choices possible. With that in mind, let’s look at what night guards are made of.

What’s My Night Guard Made of Exactly?

A night guard that has been custom fitted by your dentist to provide a protective shield around your teeth that prevents continued damage that may be occurring due to clenching and grinding during the night can contain a variety of chemicals. 

In this section, we will be discussing the following chemical compounds:

  1. Methyl Methacrylate
  2. Phthalates
  3. Bisphenol A

Methyl Methacrylate

This substance has a variety of uses, not just in the production of mouth guards. It can be found in everything from light fixtures to plexiglass. It can be used as a medical cement during orthopedic surgeries and is found in acrylic dental appliances. 

While it has been widely used for years without danger, direct contact with the skin with liquid uncured MMA can cause irritation and damage.

Luckily, the MMA used in our nightguards is nothing to be concerned about as it has been thoroughly cured during its manufacture.

A properly applied acrylic mouth guard by a dentist will have been properly cured so the exposure risk to MMA for us as users is non-existent.

Phthalates

This chemical is used to increase the flexibility of hard plastics. They can be found in many of the plastics in our lives, including the nightguards we use.

Nightguards that are made of plastic and related substances can contain phthalates in various forms to make sure that they are durable and robust. Unfortunately, the effect of these substances on human beings is not well understood and requires further research.

According to the CDC.” Some types of phthalates have affected the reproductive system in animals. Human health effects from exposure to low levels of phthalates are not as clear. More research is needed to assess the human health effects of exposure to phthalates”.

Essentially, the subject of how toxic phthalates are can only be answered after further research has been done into their effects on human beings. Further study in this area has already been recommended by Meeker, et al. in 2009.

It is worth noting that we do know that some of the chemical variants of phthalates are more dangerous than others. 

If you want to avoid exposing yourself to phthalates, the best course of action is to choose a mouth guard that is phthalate free or at the very least to opt for one with a safer variant of the compound.

Bisphenol A

BPA has a reputation that precedes itself and none of us need to be told that a mouthguard containing this chemical is to be avoided.

While it hardens plastics, it is also responsible for causing cancer in human beings. It has been associated with conditions relating to the endocrine system, cardiovascular disease, psychological damage arising from its impact on the brain, and a litany of other serious health conditions.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Exposure to BPA is a concern because of possible health effects of BPA on the brain and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children. It can also affect children’s behavior. Additional research suggests a possible link between BPA and increased blood pressure”.

In the United States, almost every night guard that is available is free from BPA. Some imported guards have been known to contain BPA. It should be clear from your chosen vendor if your night guard is BPA-free or not.

A mouth guard that contains BPA is not considered safe for use and should be avoided at all costs. 

Conclusion

Often it can be difficult to know whether something we have come to rely on can pose a danger to our health due to the chemicals it contains.

This is especially true for those of us that do not have the scientific understanding to accurately parse out the information that is true and the information that is not.

When it comes to our night guards, being on the lookout for the 3 compounds that have been discussed today will help us when deciding which guard is best for us.

Also, talking with our dentists about which custom-fitted night guard they recommend is one of the best ways we can understand as much about these devices as possible.

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