Have you been prescribed or are researching getting a mouth guard as you are grinding your teeth? This page will help explain the benefits of wearing one, who might need these and the different types.
How does a mouth guard work?
This is basically a plastic-based appliance, often worn while asleep. It protects the teeth from wear damage (caused buy clenching and grinding, AKA ‘bruxism’) and separates the jaw joint slightly to reduce TMJ symptoms. It is known by a number of names including an occlusal guard, nocturnal bite plate, bite guard and tmj splint
This is a removable device which is molded and manufactured to fit the upper (or, less often, lower) jaw comfortably, to prevent loss of tooth structure or damage to soft tissues during teeth clenching or grinding.
Who needs a bite guard?
There are a number of conditions whereby these splints are recommended. Some of the most prominent indications for their use include the following:
- With temporo-mandibular joint disorders and conditions, they may be used to prevent load or stress on the jaws, thus relieving symptoms
- For prevention of attritional wear to the teeth from bruxism
- Mouthguards for snoring are also available
- Used in contact sports which can lead to damage or trauma to the jaws or the face- Here a ‘gumshield’ or ‘sports guard‘ is worn, a different device to that used for grinding.
Millions of people across the globe are habitual teeth grinders. Night time teeth grinding which is left untreated for a long duration of time, can result in severe tooth-wear. A mouthpiece effectively prevents this wear which occurs due to attrition (basically where the top and bottom teeth bash off each other) resulting from grinding.
Relation between mouthguards & bruxism
Bruxism is defined as a parafunctional, mostly nocturnal, habit characterized by the grinding or clenching of the teeth. It is a very common sleep disorder and may be mild, moderate or severe. Sleep bruxism is a problem that can affect kids and adults both and may be associated with TMJ problems, trauma to the jaws, stress, anxiety or different allergic reactions.
If this disorder is left untreated for a long time, it may also lead to various TMJ problems. The use of a mouthguard for bruxism plays a major role in the treatment and prevention of resultant symptoms.
What are the different types of mouth guards?
There are three basic types available depending upon the needs and requirements of the patients. These are:
- Ready-made or stock guards
- Mouth adapted
- Custom made
Ready-made mouth guards do not offer any flexibility in terms of adjustments to suit the unique shape of each person’s mouth and are available in standard sizes only. They can only be trimmed to fit the jaws of the patient in a slightly better manner.
The mouth adapted types are also known as ‘boil and bite’ guards. This is because even though these are also available in standard sizes, they can be adjusted to fit the jaws closely with the help of heating, boiling or molding. An example is the ‘shock doctor’ range of gum shields. They are made using thermoplastic materials which means that the material can be manipulated to meet the needs of the patient.
Custom made types make use of the impression of a patient’s teeth for the creation of a nightguard that best adapts to their mouth. The impression can be taken with materials such as alginates or dental putty. This type is further divided into vacuum form and pressure laminated mouth guards. A custom made device is considered to be the best mouthguard for TMJ owing to the ideal fit it provides.
Professionally made, custom splints offer much better fit and protection versus the other types.
Mouth guards for kids
Mouth guards are are sometimes given to kids who grind and clench their teeth at night. Again, this is to protect the teeth and reduce any possible jaw symptoms. Whether the dentition is primary or secondary, it is important to protect the teeth against wear through attrition, and these specialized devices serve as the most effective form of protection.
Always get such a device for your child made by a dentist. Poorly fitting or badly designed appliances may cause issues with permanent tooth over-eruption or alignment.