Mouthguards are a staple in the world of dentistry, and for good reason. Though often associated with athletes, they serve a broader purpose than just shielding against sports-related injuries. Whether you’re a professional sports player, a weekend warrior, or someone grappling with nighttime teeth grinding, mouthguards offer invaluable protection.
Why Use a Mouthguard?
A mouthguard, as its name suggests, is a protective device that covers the teeth and gums to prevent and reduce injury to the teeth, arches, lips, and gums. A variety of risks can be mitigated using these devices:
- Sports: Dental injuries are among the most common type of facial injury in sports. For those involved in contact sports like football, hockey, or boxing, and even non-contact sports where falls or contact with equipment is possible, such as gymnastics or skating, mouthguards are essential. They cushion blows that could cause broken teeth, injuries to the lips and tongue, and even jaw fractures.
- Bruxism: Nighttime teeth grinding, or bruxism, can wear down teeth, leading to sensitivity, chipping, and other dental problems. Mouthguards can protect teeth from this unintentional grinding.
- TMJ Disorders: Some people use mouthguards to alleviate symptoms of TMJ disorders or to prevent the clenching that can cause or exacerbate TMJ pain.
Benefits of Wearing a Mouthguard
- Protection from Costly Dental Repairs: Treating dental injuries can be expensive. A cracked or knocked-out tooth can lead to procedures like root canals, crowns, or even dental implants. In comparison, mouthguards are a cost-effective way to prevent these injuries.
- Prevention of Severe Injuries: A blow to the lower face can transmit force to the upper face, potentially leading to more severe injuries. Mouthguards help absorb and distribute the force of a blow.
- Prevent Tooth Movement: For those who’ve had orthodontic treatment, a mouthguard can help prevent unintentional tooth movement, especially during high-impact sports.
- Better Sleep: For those using mouthguards due to bruxism, the device can lead to a more restful sleep by preventing grinding and the associated discomfort.
Types of Mouthguards
- Stock Mouth Protectors: Readily available at sports stores, these are pre-formed and are usually the least expensive. However, they are often bulky and can make breathing and talking difficult.
- Boil and Bite Mouth Protectors: These can be bought at many sporting goods stores and offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. They are made from thermoplastic and can be shaped around the teeth after being warmed in water.
- Custom-fitted Mouth Protectors: Made by a dentist or a dental technician to fit your teeth precisely, these are more expensive than the other types but provide the most comfort and protection.
Mouthguards are a dental industry mainstay, bridging the gap between prevention and intervention. Their varied uses, from sports protection to preventing nighttime grinding, make them a versatile tool in the arsenal of dental health. With the right type and fit, anyone can benefit from the protection that mouthguards offer. Always consult with your dentist to choose the best option for your specific needs.