Mouth guards are wonderful and should be viewed similar to brushing teeth. The reason mouth guards are great is that they help protect teeth and can prevent expensive fracture. Mouth guards are akin to helmets on bicycles in that a person hopes never actually to need a helmet, but if they do, they are thankful. Much like it is much better to break a helmet than have a skull fracture, when mouth guards break, that means that they were doing their job. I make three different types of mouth guards in my office: a thin flexible mouthguard, a thicker flexible mouthguard, and a hard acrylic mouthguard. Each mouthguard has its own purpose and situation where I recommend them.
The most common mouthguard that I make are thin flexible ones. They are made from the same material with which I make whitening trays, and patients like them because these guards are not very visible, it is easy to talk with them in the mouth, and they are the least expensive. I use these often when patients are trying to break the habit of grinding and clenching during the day. Patients wear them when they are doing an activity that is routine for them and they are likely to hurt their mouth. The most common places that I see this are my patients who work in front of a computer all day long or my patients who spend much of their day driving such as truck drivers or taxi cab owners. For both of these patients, ergonomics is important and jaw position is just as important with how the person is sitting in the chair. I also use them for my patients who grind at night time but cannot tolerate a bigger mouth guard. I am not a huge fan of these for night time use to help protect teeth because they are not strong enough to withstand the forces that the jaw can create at night and can breakdown pretty quickly. Still though, if a patient cannot tolerate much in his mouth, this is still better than nothing.
The next type that I make are thicker flexible mouthguards. Many patients like this type of mouth guard because it feels comfortable and fits well on all of the teeth. These mouthguards are about three times thicker than the thin ones mentioned beforehand. I use these mouth guards for my patients who need a guard for contact sports such as football, baseball, or martial arts. These guards can take a beating and protect the teeth. I also like them for my patients who grind at night time and do not have jaw pain as they tend to hold up well for many years. I will occasionally make these as well for my more intense day time grinders who do not have to interact with people much as these guards are hard to talk with when in the mouth.
The final type of mouthguard that I make is a hard acrylic mouth guard. These are my favorite ones to make, but also much more involved. The reason that they are hard to make is that the dental laboratory has to make them. The process is similar to making a denture and I actually use the same lab who makes my dentures to make my hard acrylic mouth guards. I like these the most because I can actually control the bite of the teeth and make sure that everything fits together how I need it to fit together. I also like it because for my patients with jaw pain, I can develop the bite on these so that the jaw can relax and not create as much stress. These guards are also better for patients with gum disease as they act like orthodontic retainers for the teeth. The final part that I like about these is that they are the strongest of all the guards. These are the types that can last a decade if they are taken care of.
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I will reiterate it again that mouth guards are wonderful. They help protect teeth from damage caused not by an infection such as cavities or gum disease, but rather use and abuse of our daily habits. My patients who wear mouth guards routinely typically have fewer issues with their teeth. If you think that you could benefit from a mouth guard, call my office at 504-392-5104 and we will help you out.