Strong teeth are important for a healthy, happy life. If you have strong teeth, it will be much easier to eat well and maintain your weight. You can also avoid many dental problems (and their treatments) that often occur with weakened enamel. A mouth guard or nightguard is an easy way to protect your teeth against injuries during sports activities or while sleeping.
Your dentist might recommend wearing a mouthguard if you participate in contact sports such as football, rugby, soccer, hockey, lacrosse or basketball where there is a high risk of injury to the face. There are also types of sports where wearing a sports mouthguard may be appropriate or strongly recommended.
Another type of protective appliance is known as a nightguard. Your dentist might recommend a nightguard for you if you grind or clench your teeth during sleep. If left untreated, this can cause damage to the jaw joint and often leads to headaches, neck pain and even earaches.
A mouth guard or nightguard is made of soft plastic materials that are shaped to fit your teeth. In a sports mouthguard, this creates a protective shield over the front teeth. In a nightguard, this creates a cushion between the top and bottom teeth. The best mouthguards and nightguards are custom-fit to your teeth by an experienced dentist or dental lab technician.
Once your protective appliance has been fabricated, your dentist will provide you with instructions on how to care for this appliance and when to wear it. Here are some of the most common reasons why you should wear a mouthguard or nightguard:
Prevent Tooth Damage
Being hit in the face is no fun and it can really hurt. Wearing a sports mouthguard, however, can help it hurt less. This is because sports mouthguards are designed to absorb some of the impact force. Not only does this prevent your teeth from being knocked out of place, driven into the jaw bone, or damaged, but it can also decrease the risk of concussion.
Wearing a nightguard can also prevent tooth damage. While the risk of being hit in the face while sleeping is not usually a problem, bruxism can be. Bruxism is the term used to describe the act of grinding or clenching your teeth together, usually while sleeping. When the teeth are constantly pressed into one another, this can cause them to wear down, increasing the risk of enamel chips or cracks. Nightguards are designed to cushion and reduce the force of bruxism to prevent tooth damage.
Decrease Risk of Tooth Decay
Damaged teeth are more likely to become decayed, especially when the protective enamel layer becomes cracked or chips off entirely. In cases where the enamel has been damaged, it is more likely that decay-causing bacteria can enter the tooth and cause problems like a pulp infection. Since both sports and bruxism have been known to damage the teeth, wearing a sports mouthguard or nightguard helps to decrease the risk of decay by preserving the protective enamel. With that being said, however, it is imperative to properly clean and care for your appliance so that it does not introduce excess bacteria into your mouth.
One final reason to wear a sports mouthguard or nightguard is because both appliances help you to preserve your natural oral functions, like speaking and chewing. These functions can easily become impaired when one or more teeth are damaged and/or lost. Not only that, but bruxism can also lead to temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD), which can cause facial pain and problems chewing.
Many people don’t realize how important wearing a mouthguard is. The list of benefits goes on and on, but the bottom line is that if you wear one or both types of protective appliances, your teeth will be safer than they would otherwise be. If you’re not sure which type to buy or if you even need one of these appliances, consult with your local dentist who can help determine which appliance best suits your needs based on your lifestyle and habits.
Dr. Alina Huang has been practicing dentistry in Manhattan for the last eight years. She was born in New York City, and raised in California where she received her Bachelor’s degree at UCLA, and her D.D.S. at the University of the Pacific in San Francisco. She then made her return to NYC where she completed her General Practice Residency at Montefiore Medical Center and has been working in private practice ever since. She continues her learning by attending courses to stay current with the latest advancements in dentistry and refine her skills.