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What’s the Difference Between Mouthguards and Night Guards?

Little skateboarder portrait using a mouth guard

Mouthguards and night guards are integral to the preservation of dental health, serving distinct purposes. While they may share some similarities, it’s crucial to understand their differences.

Whether you’re contemplating a mouthguard for your child’s sports activities or a night guard recommended by your dentist, this article will elucidate the disparities between these devices and their respective contributions to maintaining optimal oral health.

Mouthguards Vs Night guards

A mouthguard is a dental appliance that’s used to protect your teeth during physical activities such as contact sports.

Mouthguards are designed to shield your teeth and gums from the impact that can result from these types of activities, helping to prevent damage and injury.

A night guard is a dental device designed to be worn overnight. Night guards focus specifically on protecting your teeth against the damaging effects of a condition called bruxism, which is characterised by grinding or clenching your teeth and commonly co-occurs with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, most commonly during sleep.

As well as preventing teeth grinding and clenching, night guards are also used to provide relief from the pain and discomfort associated with bruxism.

The Oral Health Benefits of Mouthguards vs. Night Guards

Mouth guards and your oral health

  • Safeguarding during physical pursuits: The primary role of a mouthguard is to shield the teeth, gums, and jaws when engaging in physical activities, particularly contact sports like football, hockey, and boxing. Mouthguards serve as a protective cushion, absorbing the force of impacts or strikes to the face, thereby reducing the risk of dental injuries like chipped or dislodged teeth.
  • Minimizing soft tissue injuries: In addition to safeguarding teeth, mouthguards also decrease the likelihood of harm to the soft tissues within the mouth, such as the lips, cheeks, and tongue. By acting as a protective barrier, mouthguards diminish the potential for cuts and bruises in these regions.

The role of night guards in oral health

  • Protection against bruxism: Night guards are most commonly used to protect against the damaging effects of bruxism. By creating a physical barrier between the upper and lower teeth, night guards (sometimes called ‘sleeping guards’) reduce the damage caused by these grinding and clenching movements.
  • Bruxism pain and symptom relief: As well as providing protection for teeth, night guards are also used to relieve the symptoms of bruxism. These symptoms can include jaw pain, muscle tension, and headaches. By reducing the pressure on the teeth and jaws, night guards can help alleviate pain and discomfort.
  • Preservation of tooth structure: By preventing damage such as fractures, enamel erosion and excessive wear and tear caused by bruxism, night guards play an important role in preserving the structure of teeth, helping to maintain their integrity and longevity.

Are Custom Mouth Guards Better Than Generic Mouthguards?

When it comes to choosing a mouthguard, you may be wondering whether it’s better to opt for a custom device from your dentist or a generic mouth guard that can be purchased over the counter.

While both are designed to provide protection for your teeth and mouth, there are some important differences between these two types of mouthguards.

  • Comfort and fit: As custom mouthguards are made specifically for your teeth using 3D impressions of your mouth, they offer superior comfort and a precise fit. Generic mouthguards, on the other hand, may not be as comfortable and provide a less-than-perfect fit.
  • Enhanced Protection: Custom mouthguards typically offer superior protection and shock absorption compared to generic mouthguards due to their tailored fit. They excel at evenly distributing the force of impact, making them more effective in minimising the chances of dental and jaw injuries.
  • Durability: Custom mouthguards are usually more durable due to their customised design, which makes them less likely to wear out or become damaged quickly. In contrast, generic mouthguards may necessitate more frequent replacement.
  • Cost: The cost of a custom mouthguard will typically be higher than a generic mouthguard, due to the process involved in creating a custom-fitted device.

As you can see, both mouthguards and night guards play crucial roles in protecting your oral health, but they serve different purposes. Mouthguards shield against physical injuries, while night guards prevent the damage caused by teeth grinding and clenching.

If you think you may need a mouthguard or a night guard, contact your dentist at Commercial Road Dental to discuss the best solution for you.

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