Many of us – especially athletes and parents of athletes – know how important mouthguards are for protecting teeth. But while we may be familiar with their use during activities like football or hockey, they can also play a major role in oral and overall health when used at night. Guards can help prevent the common problem of nighttime clenching and grinding, and they can also help with snoring and sleep apnea. While there are a range of models available online and elsewhere, a custom-made mouthguard from your dentist is always your best bet to ensure quality and effectiveness.
Custom Sports Mouthguards
For both children and adults participating in sports, a mouthguard should be considered as an essential piece of equipment. Athletic mouthguards typically cover the upper teeth, which are at greater risk of injury. Athletes and parents have a range of options from which to choose. There are low-cost, ready-made, one-size-fits-all guards, “boil-and-bite” guards (which allow limited personalization), and high-quality custom guards offered by your dentist.
If you’re an athlete, experts agree that the best way to keep your teeth and mouth safe is by using a mouthguard created for you by your dentist. These guards are designed using a precise impression of the your teeth, and higher-quality materials make them less likely to tear or break. Custom mouthguards are also essential for patients with braces, as they are specifically designed to protect teeth and expensive orthodontic treatments.
Custom mouthguards have been enhanced in recent years by new shock-absorbing materials. These custom guards are pressure-laminated using intense heat – often made right in your dentist’s office. A custom athletic mouthguard generally costs $200-$500, which is more expensive than over-the-counter or online options, but far less costly than replacing a missing tooth or having a dental emergency.
Mouthguards for Teeth Grinding and TMJ
In some cases, damage to our teeth or jaws can happen while we sleep. Night guards are often the best and least invasive option for treating problems like teeth grinding and Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ).
- Teeth Grinding
Nighttime teeth grinding – also called bruxism – can cause jaw pain and headaches. It can wear down enamel, eventually leading to broken teeth. Grinding is often an involuntary reaction to stress and can be relieved by separating upper and lower teeth with a high-quality guard. And while online options for personalized night guards are increasingly common, it’s important to get the right fit and make sure that your guard doesn’t affect breathing. The safest and most effective night guards are made by a laboratory and custom-fit to your mouth based on impressions taken in your dentist’s office.
In the case of TMJ, patients experience pain in the joint that connects the upper and lower jaw – or even pain in the neck area. Many dentists recommend a special night guard (also called a stabilization splint) to shift the bite and relieve pain, as well as prevent grinding. Because TMJ is a complex condition, over the counter or online mouthguards are not recommended in this case. Instead, talk to your dentist about a custom splint, designed and fitted by your dentist, made of soft rubber or hard acrylic. Due to the specialized nature of these guards, the price tag is higher than a typical night guard. Yet, for many patients, relief from facial and neck pain is well worth the price.
Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea oral appliances are revolutionizing the way this sometimes-deadly condition is treated. Patients with sleep apnea repeatedly stop breathing during sleep. Dentists and physicians are finding that less-invasive oral appliances – commonly called mouthguards – are far more likely to be used than traditional Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) breathing machines. These dental guards (also known as Mandibular Advancement Devices, or MADs) create space in the airway by moving the jaw forward; it’s a simple solution to an ongoing and tricky problem.
Far less clunky than an unwieldy CPAP machine, sleep apnea oral appliances are comfortable, easy to use, and patient friendly. Dentists are finding success with mouthguards in cases where using the CPAP has failed. Like TMJ guards, sleep apnea guards absolutely require professional expertise. And with a cost of around $2000, they are far less expensive than CPAP treatments and are often covered by medical insurance.
Mouthguards: Customization is Key
Whether you’re looking to keep your young athlete safe during her lacrosse matches or you are personally looking to overcome a debilitating condition like sleep apnea, a custom-fit mouthguard or oral appliance may be the answer you’ve been looking for. New materials and techniques have made mouthguards more effective than ever for a range of issues, and your dentist can help you get a guard that’s perfectly adapted to your mouth and suited to your needs. If you’re interested in a mouthguard, give us a call today!