Thursday, June 30, 2022

What is a Mouthguard?


What is a Mouthguard?

A mouthguard is a piece of dental equipment designed to cover your teeth and gums. There are several different types of mouthguards available. Athletes playing contact sports often wear sports mouthguards to protect their teeth, gums, and jaws during practice and games.

You can also wear a mouthguard at night to prevent sleep disturbances, such as snoring. Mouthguard designs can vary widely depending on their intended use. Anti-snoring mouthguards are designed to change the position of your jaw or tongue, keep your airway open, and prevent snoring.

Mouthguards can also be designed to be worn as you sleep to prevent teeth grinding, or bruxism. Bruxism is excessive teeth clenching and grinding that can occur as you sleep, causing jaw pain, neck pain, and noticeable damage to your teeth.

Mouthguards for teeth grinding are typically designed to cover either your top or bottom row of teeth. This added protection can help reduce the damage caused by consistent clenching and grinding throughout the night.

Some people have trouble sleeping with a mouthguard initially, and it may take a few nights to a few weeks to acclimate.

How to Pick the Best Mouthguard for You

With so many mouthguard brands and models to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which one is right for you. Proper fit is perhaps the most crucial factor when selecting a mouthguard, but there are other elements that should be considered. We’ll take a closer look at the most important factors to help you pick the best mouthguard for teeth grinding.

Materials and Durability

Custom mouthguards are often made with two layers. The interior layer is typically softer and made from acrylic or polymer, while the exterior is made from a more rigid material.

The thickness of the mouthguard is usually measured in millimeters, often ranging from 1mm to 4mm. Less expensive models may consist of a single layer and will be noticeably thinner and softer. This may cause the mouthguard to wear out faster when compared to thicker, more rigid models. The severity of your teeth grinding can also impact the overall lifespan of your mouthguard.

Mouthguard Styles

Mouthguards come in several different styles with varying price-points and degrees of customization:

Custom-Fitted: Custom mouthguards tend to be the most expensive, but they may be the most comfortable and effective for many sleepers. They are custom-fabricated to fit the exact shape of your teeth. While this style previously required a trip to the dentist, many companies now offer this service online. You’ll receive a kit to make a custom dental impression that you send back to the company. They’ll use your impression to create and deliver a custom mouthguard fitted to the exact shape of your teeth.

Boil-and-Bite: A boil-and-bite mouthguard offers a simplified version of a custom-fitted mouthguard. This style uses a special thermoplastic that’s moldable at high heat. To create a custom mold, you boil the mouthguard in water to soften the material, run it under cool water, and then bite into it to create an impression of your teeth and gums. Boil-and-bite mouthguards are generally less expensive than custom fit options, but more expensive than one-size-fits-all mouthguards.

One-Size-Fits-All: One-size-fits-all models do not provide a customized fit, but they are typically the least expensive type of mouthguard for teeth grinding. Results may vary when it comes to the comfort and fit of this style.

Fit and Comfort

A mouthguard should fit snugly and comfortably in your mouth in order to be effective. A poorly-fitted mouthguard may prevent some of the damage caused by teeth grinding, but it can also lead to jaw or mouth pain.

Custom-fitted and moldable boil-and-bite models are formed to the specific shape of your mouth and should fit comfortably. When it comes to one-size-fits-all mouthguards, you may need to try multiple models before you find one that suits the shape of your mouth and allows you to sleep comfortably.

Cleaning Requirements

Mouthguards should be cleaned and sanitized regularly.  Each manufacturer will have specific recommendations for cleaning, and instructions should be included with your night guard. If you prefer a low-maintenance option, you may want to examine the cleaning instructions prior to purchasing.


Mouthguards are available in a wide range of price-points to suit almost every budget. Though mouthguards were once considered to be expensive investments, they are more accessible now with the emergence of online companies that offer direct-to-consumer shipping options. Custom-fitted mouthguards typically cost between $100 and $200, while moldable options are generally less expensive.

Mouthguard FAQsWhat is bruxism?

Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding and clenching. Bruxism can occur when you’re awake or as you sleep. Physicians consider awake bruxism and sleep bruxism to be two distinct conditions, though they are characterized by similar symptoms.

Overall, sleep bruxism is less common than awake bruxism. However, teeth grinding at night still affects between 15% to 40% of children and 8% to 10% of adults. Sleep bruxism can lead to a number of unwanted symptoms including:

Damage and erosion to the teethHeadachesJaw painClicking of the the joints in the jawTemporomandibular disorders (TMDs)

Sleep bruxism can have a significant impact on your quality of sleep, which may affect your physical health. Since it occurs as you sleep, you may be unaware that you suffer from it.

If you suspect you suffer from sleep bruxism, talk to your doctor or dentist. The presence of common symptoms, such as jaw pain and tooth damage, may be enough to diagnose sleep bruxism. In some instances, you may need to participate in an overnight sleep study to get a definitive diagnosis.

Can I use a regular mouthguard for teeth grinding?

You shouldn’t use a regular mouthguard for teeth grinding, as they are not designed to protect the teeth and jaw from grinding or clenching. Sports mouthguards are usually thick and protect the teeth from impact. They are meant to be used for only a few hours at a time during games or practice, rather than every night.

Mouthguards that are specifically designed for bruxism will protect your teeth and withstand light to heavy teeth grinding. Other mouthguards are more likely to crack, break, or wear down more quickly.

What’s the best way to clean a mouthguard?

The best way to clean your mouthguard is to use the instructions and tools supplied to you by the manufacturer, as this will help prevent damage to the mouthguard. Many mouthguards come with a sanitizing solution for this purpose.

Depending on the mouthguard, you may be able to use standard dental cleaning tools. A gentle but thorough scrub with a soft bristle toothbrush and nonabrasive toothpaste or mild soap can help keep your mouthguard clean between uses.

How often should I replace my mouthguard?

How often you will need to replace your mouthguard will depend on several factors including:

Mouthguard thicknessType of materialsHow severely you grind your teethHow well you take care of your mouthguard

Inspect your mouthguard regularly, looking for any cracks, tears, changes in shape, or thinning. If you experience mild teeth grinding and you take proper care of your mouthguard, it can last several months to a year or longer. Some mouthguards are made from thicker materials designed to withstand severe grinding. If you find yourself replacing your mouthguard frequently, you may want to look for a thicker, more rigid model, or a brand that allows you to buy discounted multipacks.

You may want to bring your mouthguard with you to your regular dental cleaning and checkup appointments, so that your dentist can evaluate your mouthguard for wear and tear.

Can medications cause teeth grinding?

Certain prescription medications may contribute to teeth grinding at night. Sleep experts may not have narrowed down the exact cause of sleep bruxism, but most agree that multiple factors can trigger teeth grinding and clenching as you sleep.

Amphetamines, dopamine-related medications, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are thought to worsen the symptoms of bruxism. Other substances that may contribute to teeth grinding, include tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, and recreational drugs.


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