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What is a Mouth Guard?

A mouth guard is a protective device for the mouth that cushions blows to the face, minimizing the risk of injuries to your teeth, lips, and gums. Often used in sports, it's also helpful for those who grind their teeth at night. Intrigued by how this simple tool can safeguard your smile? Discover the different types and their uses in our comprehensive guide.
Bryan Pedersen
Bryan Pedersen

A mouth guard protects teeth from impact during activities where physical contact may occur. It fits over the teeth helping to prevent them from being knocked out and holds the jaw together more tightly. What many people don't know is that a good mouth guard protects more than just the teeth. If fitted properly, it distributes force evenly throughout the mouth, lessening the chance for injuries to the rest of the head including broken jaws and concussions.

There are different types of mouth guards depending on the level of protection required and the amount of money a person is willing to spend. A custom fitted mouth guard offers the very best protection, and is available through a dentist. There, the mouth guard is made from a mold in order to make an exact fit with the person's mouth. This types of mouth guard is not very expensive and worth the investment if the very best protection is sought.

Boy with missing tooth.
Boy with missing tooth.

Less expensive options are generally available through most sporting goods stores. Premade "stock" mouth guards can be bought for minimal cost. The danger however, is that they may not fit properly once the user takes it home and gets it out of the package. Also, mouth guards that fit poorly risk further injury upon impact. Mouth guards can dig into the gums or help jar a tooth loose in certain cases.

Boiling a mouth guard softens the material.
Boiling a mouth guard softens the material.

A better choice is boil and bite mouth guards. This type is placed in boiling water to soften the material. Once it's soft the user bites down on it to get a custom fit, and then leaves it to harden. After cooling, the boiled mouth guard should provide a much closer fit to the person's mouth, offering better protection from impact.

Caring for a mouth guard is simple. They should be washed before and after each use, and be put into the storage container it came with. If no container was packaged with it, then a sandwich bag is a suitable alternative. Mouth guards should generally be changed each year to account for changes to the mouth, and wear and tear on the mouth guard. A dentist can provide even more specific time frames if necessary.

Wearing a mouth guard may provide some relief from TMJ at night.
Wearing a mouth guard may provide some relief from TMJ at night.

When weighing the cost of a mouth guard, it helps to compare it to the potential costs of dental or hospital visits. Even minor care, like fixing a damaged or chipped tooth can cost hundreds of dollars. More serious injuries requiring surgery can run into the thousands, not to mention the pain and suffering that could've been avoided. The best bet is the preventative measure of a mouth guard whenever a person is involved in any contact sport or activity.

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Discussion Comments

nightlights

Can a mouth guard be used to help prevent jaw clenching during sleep? I know it would help someone who grinds their teeth, but what about just clenching straight down?

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    • Boy with missing tooth.
      By: ChantalS
      Boy with missing tooth.
    • Boiling a mouth guard softens the material.
      By: Kelpfish
      Boiling a mouth guard softens the material.
    • Wearing a mouth guard may provide some relief from TMJ at night.
      By: 9nong
      Wearing a mouth guard may provide some relief from TMJ at night.
    • Football players often wear a mouth guard to protect their teeth.
      By: Nicholas Piccillo
      Football players often wear a mouth guard to protect their teeth.