Dental night guards and dental mouth guards are molded from flexible plastic to the shape of the jaw and teeth. They are used to treat a range of medical conditions and to protect the teeth and jaw from trauma during physical activity and contact sports such as boxing, football or other activities where the mouth is a vulnerable target.
Where are dental guards used?
There are a number of oral medical conditions for which dental mouth guards are prescribed by a dentist:
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMD): TMD is an umbrella term applied to conditions affecting the temporomandibular joints that connect the mandible (lower jaw) to the skull and to the muscles of mastication (chewing). While not life-threatening, TMDs are characterized mainly by pain and clicking noises and can seriously impact an individual’s quality of life. A dental guard can help to relieve symptoms of TMDs.
- Bruxism: This is a fancy term for tooth-grinding. Dental night guards are often used to treat this common condition. Left untreated, bruxism can cause dental fractures or loss of teeth that ultimately requires extensive, and costly, dental treatment. Mouthguards are an inexpensive alternative.
- Dental trauma: There are many sports during which the jaw can be exposed to deliberate or accidental trauma. Baseball, martial arts, rugby, hockey and boxing are obvious examples. In many cases, the use of a mouth guard is mandated by the rules of the sport. Athletes who wear a mouth guard that has not been fitted by a dentist can risk injury to the jaw due to a poor fit.
- Gum disease: Dental guards are sometimes used as trays to deliver medication such as corticosteroids.
- Morsicatio buccarum: This is a scary word that simply refers to chronic cheek biting. A dental night guard may be used as a therapeutic device to prevent this from happening.
- Dental aesthetics: A dental mouth guard may be used for tooth bleaching. Night guards are also occasionally used to protect thin porcelain bridges during sleep.
TYPES OF DENTAL NIGHT GUARDS
Dental mouth guards may be pre-formed with only minor trimming required. Dental mouth guards may also be custom made, in which an impression of the user’s teeth is used to create a well-fitting mouth protector. Techniques such as vacuum formation or pressure lamination are used to make custom dental mouthguards.
Dental guards are cost-effective prophylactic measures to prevent serious damage in cases of teeth grinding and contact sports. The best fitting device is one that has been fitted by a dentist.