Imagine what it would look and feel like if you suddenly lose a single or multiple front teeth. Each activity, from smiling, speaking clearly to eating will be drastically impaired. More so, your confidence level will head in the downward direction too.
However, the use of a protective device known as mouth guard can prevent you and others from landing in the previously described situation. Wearing a mouth protector (also known by terms such as gum shield, mouth guard, mouth piece, night guard, occlusal splint, gum guard and bite plane) serves many purposes.
The device not only protects and prevents the risk of incurring trauma and injury to the dental arches, lips, gingiva and teeth, but also serves an important role in treating para functional habits such as bruxism or disorders that put a strain on the temporomandibular joint. Also, as the name suggests, gum shield is also used to shield the soft tissues whilst carrying out the process of tooth bleaching and works as a protector of delicate porcelain bridges during sleeping.
As these mouth protectors aid in diluting the impact of a blow to face, the risk of chipped or avulsed tooth and battered lips, tongue or jaw is minimized. This is the foremost reason why mouth guards form a mandatory component of athletic gear in sports activities like boxing, wrestling, martial arts or rugby.
Types of Mouth Guards
Mouth guards are available for use in three distinct types, and each is prepared using a different type of plastic.
Stock Mouth Guards
The term stock mouthpiece or mouth guard refers to a prefabricated appliance that can be readily purchased in any drug store or athletic store. In other words, these mouthpieces are ready to be used sans any additional preparation or customization for the user.
Such stock mouth guards are made of rubber or polyvinyl material, and are available in varying sizes such as small, medium and large. As the need for recording impression and lab procedure is eliminated, this variety of gum shield is extremely light on the pocket.
However, what must be noted is the minimal degree of protection offered by these stock mouth guards. There are always instances wherein the user is dissatisfied with the generic size and consequently, less than perfect fit of the prefabricated, non-customized oral appliances.
Other than the feeling of discomfort caused by partial coverage and bulkiness, the wearer also experiences problems while communicating and sometimes breathing too. The difficulty in inhaling and exhaling air results due to the clenching of teeth in order to hold the mouth piece in place.
Boil and Bite Mouth Guard
The second type of mouth guard is made using a material that becomes easy to bend on heating. It is because of the thermoplastic nature of the oral appliance that it is known as ‘Boil and Bite’ mouthpiece. To make good use of this protective appliance, the wearer is supposed to dip the mouthpiece in boiling hot water for sufficient time, or till it becomes adequately limber.
The user can then place the mouth guard in the oral cavity, bite on it and simultaneously press its surface against the teeth surfaces and gingiva using fingers or tongue. The purpose is to get a comfortable, snug fit. As the thermoplastic material loses heat, the boil and bite mouth guard begins to stiffen and retains the peculiar shape of the users arch and teeth alignment.
Thus, this guard scores higher in its performance than the stock guard. Needless to say, the snug fit offers an equally adequate protection to the soft and hard tissues from sudden impact while playing sports. One of the criticisms this particular mouth guard faces is that they can sometimes be bulkier than required.
Another drawback noticed is that during the customization process, if even molding is not achieved, the plastic material can be thick in certain areas and too slim in other areas, resulting in attenuation of protection being offered. Care must be taken while selecting the appropriate size of the boil and bite mouth guard as excessively large appliances can lead to gagging.
Custom Fit Mouth Guards
Custom Fit removable mouthpieces can be obtained from a dental office and are not available for sale in usual drug stores (unlike the above two types of mouth guards). These mouth protectors are specifically prepared for the athletic users. If well designed, custom mouth guard has the ability to deliver maximum level of protection in comparison to stock or boil and bite mouthpiece.
After recording the impressions of upper and lower teeth, casts are poured which are immediately sent to a dental laboratory for precise fabrication. As expected, this dental appliance covers each and every surface of the front and back teeth and are thus more expensive than the other mouth guards. The comfort and fit of custom fit mouth guard is exceptional, being made out of either acrylic or other flexible material for people who develop an allergic reaction towards acrylic.
Advantages of Mouth Guards
Mouth Guards offer Good Protection
The precautionary use of a mouth guard is important for people involved in contact sports. The key advantage is to aid in protecting the teeth from undergoing damage, either in the form of chipping, fracture or complete tooth loss. Such mouth guards keep the chances of facing serious injuries like fracture of the jaw, concussion, cerebral haemorrhage and neck trauma, minimal. Their proper use ensures that while playing, the mandibular jaw does not jam into the maxillary arch.
Mouth Guards Ensure Better Sleep
Patients with temporomandibular joint disorders are advised to wear mouth splints during the night. This curbs the tendency of the user to clench and grind the upper and lower teeth while sleeping.
One of the primary changes the patient notices after wearing a properly designed bite guard on a regular basis is that he/she is able to sleep more peacefully. This is because the noise teeth grinding causes keeps both the teeth grinder and the sleeping partner up at night.
Episodes of Headaches Diminish
TMJ disorders are often linked to headaches which initiate either due to malalignment of the disc or other ailment that targets the jaw joints. The use of the oral appliance helps in reducing the frequency and intensity of headaches.