How A Custom Mouthguard Can Keep Your Smile Protected
A mouthguard is a protective device worn to cover, separate, and protect our teeth from damage or injury. Most commonly, they are worn while playing sports, like football, gymnastics, or hockey, but should also be worn by those who grind or clench their teeth while sleeping. Though the design of the mouthguard depends on the purpose, working with your dentist to create a custom appliance will always be the most effective for protecting your smile.
Why Do Dentists Recommend Mouthguards?
Because mouthguards can protect the mouth from multiple types of damage and injury, dentists recommend them when they identify risk factors for each of the following potential problems.
People who play contact sports have a high risk for injuries to the face and mouth.
Wearing an athletic mouthguard can protect the oral tissues from the trauma of these injuries.
Athletic mouthguards typically cover the upper teeth completely, as well as the gum tissues. These mouthguards separate the upper and lower teeth, while also protecting the teeth from the soft tissues of the mouth (lips, cheeks, tongue), and providing a shock-absorbing effect for the jaw joints.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD)
Temporomandibular joint disorder is a common condition affecting millions of Americans that causes significant pain and impacts the ability to chew. Wearing a splint is one important layer of treatment for this complicated condition.
A mouthguard for TMD aims to position the upper and lower jaws in a comfortable resting and functional relationship. Because the nature of this disorder is so complex, mouthguards for TMD require constant monitoring and frequent adjustments.
Sleep Apnea & Snoring
Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition in which a person stops breathing during sleep. Snoring is a risk factor for this condition. A dental appliance is one of the treatment options for mild-to-moderate sleep apnea and snoring.
The purpose of a mouthguard in treating both apnea and snoring is to bring the lower jaw upward and forward. This position of the lower jaw opens and stabilizes the airway, allowing smoother passage of air.
Clenching and/or grinding is a condition known as bruxism.
Bruxism causes continual micro-trauma to the teeth, that usually results in chipped, flattened, shortened, or cracked teeth. It can also cause gum recession, notching of the teeth at the gums, muscle pain, and/or jaw joint problems.
Mouthguards for teeth grinding are commonly called splints, or if used at night, nightguards. They protect the teeth, gums, muscles, and joints from the effects of heavy clenching and/or grinding. Not only do they provide a barrier between the teeth to stop the damage of friction; they also reduce the amount of force the jaw muscles are able to produce.
Why are Custom Mouthguards Best?
“Custom” means fabricated individually for one person’s unique smile and needs, usually by your dentist. There are many different mouthguards available over the counter that are generic and “one size fits all.” While these are far less expensive, they are also far less comfortable and less effective.
A custom mouthguard fits your teeth perfectly. Because of the precise fit of a custom mouthguard, they are much smaller in size than over-the-counter versions. The custom fit adds good retention, so the mouthguard stays in place until you remove it, making it both more comfortable and more effective.
How to Care for a Mouthguard
The investment you make in a custom mouthguard is a good one that will pay off by preventing the need for expensive dental treatments in the future. When properly maintained, a custom mouthguard can last for many years. Follow these steps to care for your custom mouthguard.
1. Clean and dry it after each use. Using your toothbrush and either a mild liquid soap or a dental cleaning solution, brush the entire surface of the mouthguard and rinse off completely. Dry it well before storing.
2. Store in a cool, dry place. When you are not wearing your mouthguard, keep it in the provided case (which should have small vent holes) away from heat and moisture.
3. Don’t clean it with hot water! We know that it seems like hot water will provide a better cleaning effect, but many of the materials used to make mouthguards are sensitive to heat, and the appliance could distort. You should use warm water.
4. Regularly inspect your mouthguard. Some people grind or clench so heavily that they can actually put divots or holes into their mouthguard. Though their teeth are protected from that damage, the mouthguard is less effective and should be replaced.
5. Your mouthguard needs a check-up, too! You should bring your mouthguard to all your professional teeth cleaning visits. Your dentist will evaluate its fit and effectiveness, and the team can professionally clean the mouthguard too.
Mouthguards: Your Next Steps
A mouthguard can provide you with vital protection from expensive damage and save you thousands of dollars in dental treatments over your lifetime. Ask your dentist if he or she sees evidence of the conditions discussed above and inform the team if you play any contact sports. Together, you and your dentist can select the best mouthguard solution for your specific needs and provide years of protection for your mouth.