Wearing a mouth guard is often a requirement for athletes involved in extracurricular, high school, or collegiate activities. But even if it’s not a rule that you wear one, investing in a protective mouth guard could be the most important piece of “insurance” to have on you or your child, while in the game.
For individuals that aren’t involved with sports — but tend to grind, clench, or have invested in cosmetic veneers — other types of mouth guards can safeguard their smile and prevent damage to their aesthetic enhancements.
Depending on your needs, dental health, and activities, there are different designs of mouth guards that can be worn. Selecting the best one for your smile will ensure you get the most protection.
A bite “splint” is a type of mouth guard that’s designed to prevent excessive tooth wear, fractures, TMJ disorder, and headaches due to chronic bruxism (clenching and grinding.)
While your tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body, tooth against tooth can cause your enamel to wear down and fracture. This strain to your TMJ can result in joint disorders or migraines.
Wearing a splint — whether it be an “NTI” style that only fits over two front teeth, or a full arch guard — places a small amount of buffer room between the upper and lower teeth while you sleep. This prevents the TMJ from fully engaging or from tooth wear occurring. If you’ve recently had a smile makeover with porcelain veneers and crowns, there’s a good chance that your cosmetic dentist will want you to wear a bite splint while you’re sleeping.
Full arch bite splints are more appropriate for wearing while you sleep, while NTI designs can also be worn in the daytime. If you tend to clench and grind on your commute to/from work, or while at the office, then a smaller NTI splint is a more discreet option to wear. However, its small size prevents some people from wanting to wear it while they sleep at night. Talk to your dentist about your personal preferences!
Custom Fitted Athletic Mouth Guards
Unlike a bite splint, athletic guards are made to prevent injury to the teeth and certain facial structures (such as lip lacerations.) While most people wear mouth guards to prevent injuries like chipped and knocked-out teeth, certain types of professional mouth guards can also be used to protect athletes against concussions.
A custom fitted mouth guard is molded precisely to your teeth, sitting snuggly over them at all times. The smoother contour makes it easier to talk and hydrate with it in place. If any type of blunt force injury occurs, the guard helps to limit the blow to the teeth and jaw.
Mouth guards that offer this level of protection can only be made by seeing a dentist and having an impression made of your mouth. If you’re ordering one for a child, it will need to be replaced each season as teeth erupt and oral development changes. Otherwise, older teens and adults can continue to use the same mouth guard each year unless something significant changes with their smile (such as orthodontic treatment, tooth replacement, etc.)
Over the Counter Guards
There’s always an option to wear an inexpensive mouth guard that’s purchased at your local drugstore or supermarket. However, these types of “boil and bite” or generic fitting trays cannot offer the same level of protection as something customized to your unique smile anatomy. As a result, they’re typically cumbersome to wear or easily fall out (predisposing you to a secondary injury, as in athletic situations.)
Yes, a store-bought mouth splint can meet the minimum requirements of protective gear or offer at least some form of protection against fractured teeth, but they do not compare to something that’s made by your dentist.
Paying for Your Mouth Guard
Investing in a mouth guard is a smart step in preserving your cosmetic investments and avoiding unwanted dental emergencies. But if you don’t have dental insurance, you may find that paying for a mouth guard out of pocket isn’t in your monthly budget. Even if you do have insurance, you may find that it doesn’t cover much (if any) of the cost of your new appliance.
To save 15-50% off of dental services — like exams and mouth guards — consider joining a discount dental savings plan, like the one at Aetna Dental Offers. Speak to one of our savings experts today for more information.