Human teeth may handle everyday biting, chewing, and speech with ease, but they do less well with extreme biting forces and impacts to the face or jaw. For this reason, dentists often fit their patients with a customized mouth guard to protect the teeth from abnormal stresses and damage.
If you engage in regular athletic activity, you may find yourself looking for a sports mouth guard only to encounter a dizzying array of choices, questions, and considerations. Here are five key things to understand about the proper selection and fitting of a sports mouth guard.
- Differences Between Sports Mouth Guards and Night Guards
Mouth guards play two principal roles in dental health and wellness: protection during rigorous activity that might result in tooth damage, and protection against bruxism, which is unconscious grinding or clenching of the teeth and typically occurs during sleep. However, one mouth guard cannot serve both of these purposes.
Sports mouth guards feature thicker, bulkier designs, often with a semi-rigid outer shell encompassing a softer inner material. This bulkier design might prove awkward for sleepers, and does not protect against the specific stresses of bruxism. But it offers enhanced protection against impacts such as punches, kicks, and falls.
Night guards, on the other hand, feature designs and materials optimized for lightness and comfort. A single, thin layer of rigid or semi-rigid plastic provides a barrier between the top row of teeth and the bottom row. This barrier protects the teeth against each other by absorbing rubbing, grinding, and clenching forces.
- Activities That Call for Sports Mouth Guards
Sports mouth guards make sense for any activity that might pose the threat of a dental injury. The most obvious examples include sports such as boxing, martial arts, wrestling, hockey, lacrosse, football, field hockey, and soccer. These activities feature flying fists, feet, and objects that can chip, break, or even knock out your teeth.
Other activities may present a less urgent but still significant danger to your teeth. For instance, sports such as gymnastics, mountain biking, and skateboarding make you vulnerable to falls and collisions. An accident that drives you face-first into the ground, wall, or pole could destroy your teeth unless you wear a sports mouth guard.
- Types of Sports Mouth Guards
Sports mouth guards come in a variety of forms, styles, and fits. Some inexpensive products allow for no customization at all, giving you only a generic, one-size-fits-all solution. These products can prove excessively bulky and uncomfortable while offering little actual protection against impacts. They also fall out easily.
Boil-and-bite mouth guards represent the next step up from the stock mouth guards. These products feature a thermoplastic material that takes on a rough approximation of your bite when warmed by boiling water.
You’ll enjoy better protection, comfort, and retention in the mouth from a boil-and-bite mouth guard than you would from a stock mouth guard. However, you may find it tricky to get an accurate mold, and your boil-and-bite guard may wear out relatively quickly due to the thinness of the material.
Customized sports mouth guards provide the highest degrees of comfort, fit quality, durability, and cushioning ability. These mouth guards also allow for easier, clearer speech. While they cost more than other types of mouth guards, dental insurance or a dental membership plan may cover part of the cost.
- The Custom Mouth Guard Fitting Process
Custom sports mouth guards require a professional fitting at the dentist’s office. The dentist takes an impression of your bite using a putty-like material. Technicians use this negative impression to create a positive stone model. The stone model serves as the base for the creation of your custom mouth guard.
Dentists can choose between two techniques to create custom sports mouth guards. These include vacuum forming and pressure lamination. In the vacuum forming process, suction pressure pulls a single layer of polyvinyl acetate-polyethylene copolymer (EVA) plastic over the stone model to create the finished mouth guard.
The pressure lamination process employs positive pressure instead of negative pressure to fit the mouth guard precisely to the stone model. It also makes use of multiple layers of EVA instead of just one. The multiple layers allow for greater pressure during the molding process, resulting in a precise fit and unrivaled durability.
- Sports Mouth Guard Usage, Care, and Maintenance
Always brush your teeth and rinse out your mouth before you insert your sports mouth guard. This simple step can greatly reduce the accumulation of bacteria that might otherwise promote gum disease. Don’t chew on the mouth guard, since this habit can weaken the material or even make holes in it, shortening its useful life.
After you remove your sports mouth guard, brush and rinse again to get rid of any bacteria transferred from the mouth guard. Brush and rinse the mouth guard as well before putting it away.
Store your sports mouth guard in a suitable container, preferably one with air vents that will deter dampness and mold. Don’t forget to clean your mouth guard container periodically as an extra measure against bacteria.
Valley Oak Dental Group can evaluate your need and readiness for a sports mouth guard, recommend the ideal product for your specific needs, and provide a customized fit for optimal safety and comfort. Contact our dental clinic today for more information.