Mouth guards have many purposes, and can help treat conditions from teeth grinding to sleep apnea. They also protect your mouth from sports-related injury. Mouth guards may be store-bought or custom-made by a dentist.
What is a mouth guard?
Mouth guards are dental appliances that cover your teeth. Dentists recommend them for a number of reasons, and there are many different types. Children and adults alike can benefit from mouth guards.
Most mouth guards fit over your upper teeth. In some instances, your dentist may recommend a mouth guard for your lower teeth, as well.
What does a mouth guard do?
Dentists recommend mouth guards for many different reasons. You might need one if you:
- Grind or clench your teeth (bruxism).
- Play contact sports such as football, basketball, hockey, soccer or boxing.
- Participate in activities with a high fall risk, such as gymnastics, biking or ice skating.
- Have obstructive sleep apnea.
- Have TMJ disorder.
Are there different types of mouth guards?
There are three main types of mouth guards. We can categorize them according to purpose:
- Mouth guards for sports. These protect your teeth from sports-related injuries. If you play sports like boxing, wrestling, soccer, basketball, hockey or football, mouth guards can greatly reduce your risk for chipped and avulsed (knocked out) teeth.
- Mouth guards for grinding teeth. These appliances help protect your teeth from the effects of grinding and clenching. They may also reduce the effects of TMJ disorders. You can wear this type of mouth guard any time, night or day. But because most people grind or clench their teeth during sleep, it’s common to wear them at night. (Some people refer to these appliances as night guards.)
- Snoring and sleep apnea mouth guards. People with chronic snoring or obstructive sleep apnea may benefit from a custom mouth guard. This type of appliance shifts and repositions your jaw to open your airway during sleep.
In addition, mouth guards may be store-bought or custom-made:
- Store-bought: There are two main types of store-bought mouth guards. Stock (which you wear as-is, right out of the box) and boil-and-bite (which you can slightly customize at home). Store-bought guards are cheaper, but they’re not as effective as custom-made mouth guards for protection against teeth grinding or sports-related injuries. They’re also not appropriate for treating sleep apnea.
- Custom-made: A dentist creates this type of mouth guard to fit your exact dental anatomy. Because they’re designed to fit your teeth, they tend to be more comfortable than store-bought mouth guards. Custom-made mouth guards provide effective protection against bruxism and sports-related trauma. They’re also a common first line of defense in sleep apnea treatment. You can wear them with or without a CPAP machine. (Custom-made mouth guards are usually more costly, but they last longer compared to store-bought guards.)