Nightguards and mouthguards are dental devices used to protect the teeth and mouth from damage caused by various factors such as grinding or clenching teeth, sports injuries, and other conditions. These dental devices are designed to provide a protective barrier between the teeth and the outside world, helping to reduce the risk of tooth damage, gum disease, and other oral health problems. In this article, we will discuss the differences between nightguards and mouthguards, their uses, benefits, and how to choose the right dental device for your needs.
What are Nightguards?
Nightguards, also known as dental guards or occlusal guards, are dental appliances that are worn at night to protect teeth from the damaging effects of bruxism, or teeth grinding and clenching. Bruxism is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide and can cause a wide range of dental problems, including tooth wear, tooth fractures, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.
Types of Nightguards
Nightguards are available in two main types:
- Over-the-counter (OTC): OTC nightguards can be purchased from drugstores or online and come in a range of sizes and shapes.They are cheaper than custom-made nightguards but may not fit properly or provide adequate protection.
- Custom-made: Custome-made nightguards are created by a dental professional and are specifically designed to fit the patient’s teeth. Custom-made nightguards are the most effective and comfortable option, as they are tailored to the individual’s mouth and provide the best protection against bruxism. The dental professional will take an impression of the patient’s teeth, and the nightguard will be created in a dental laboratory.
Benefits of Nightguards
Nightguards offer several benefits, including protection against tooth wear and fractures, reduction of jaw pain and headaches, and improved sleep quality. They can also help to reduce the risk of developing TMJ disorders and other dental problems.
- In terms of dental health, nightguards can prevent tooth wear and fractures caused by bruxism. Bruxism can put a significant amount of pressure on the teeth, causing them to wear down and become more susceptible to fractures. Nightguards provide a cushioning effect and absorb the forces generated during teeth grinding, protecting the teeth from damage.
- Nightguards can also reduce jaw pain and headaches caused by bruxism. The constant clenching and grinding of teeth can put pressure on the jaw muscles, leading to pain and headaches. By wearing a nightguard, the jaw muscles are relaxed, reducing the amount of pressure on them and relieving pain and discomfort.
- Additionally, nightguards can improve sleep quality by reducing the symptoms of bruxism. Bruxism can cause interrupted sleep and lead to feelings of fatigue and sleepiness during the day. By wearing a nightguard, the teeth are protected, and the individual can sleep more soundly without the worry of damaging their teeth.
What are Mouthguards?
Mouthguards are an essential piece of sports equipment that protects the teeth, gums, lips, and jaws from damage during contact sports or physical activities. A mouthguard is a custom-fitted or ready-made appliance that is placed in the mouth to provide a protective barrier between the teeth and soft tissues of the mouth and the impact forces that can cause injury.
Types of Mouthguards
There are three main types of mouthguards:
- Stock: Stock mouthguards are pre-formed and come in a few sizes.
- Boil-and-bite: boil-and-bite mouthguards are heated and molded to the shape of the teeth.
- Custom-fitted mouthguards: They are made by a dental professional and are the most comfortable and effective option, as they are tailored to the individual’s mouth and offer the best protection against injury.
Uses of Mouthguards
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends the use of mouthguards for a variety of sports, including football, hockey, basketball, soccer, boxing, and wrestling. Any sport that involves physical contact or the risk of falling or colliding with other players or objects can benefit from the use of a mouthguard.
Benefits of Mouthguards
- Teeth and Jaws Protection: One of the most significant benefits of wearing a mouthguard is the protection it provides against tooth and jaw injuries. Mouthguards cushion the impact forces that can occur during sports and reduce the risk of broken, cracked, or knocked-out teeth, as well as jaw fractures and dislocations.
- Soft Tissue Injuries: Mouthguards also help to prevent soft tissue injuries, such as cuts, bruises, and lacerations to the lips, cheeks, and tongue. When an athlete falls or collides with another player, the sharp edges of the teeth can cut into the soft tissues of the mouth, causing pain, bleeding, and swelling. A mouthguard provides a cushioned barrier that helps to absorb the impact forces and prevent these types of injuries.
- Concussion Prevention: In addition to protecting against physical injuries, mouthguards can also help to prevent concussions. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that occurs when the brain is shaken or jolted inside the skull. While mouthguards cannot prevent all types of concussions, they can help to reduce the risk of concussions by providing a cushioned barrier that absorbs the impact forces and reduces the amount of force that reaches the brain.
- Reducing Energy Loss: Mouthguards can also improve athletic performance by reducing the amount of energy lost due to clenching and grinding of the teeth. When an athlete clenches or grinds their teeth, the muscles in the jaw become tense, and energy is wasted. A mouthguard helps to relax the muscles of the jaw and reduce tension, allowing the athlete to conserve energy and perform at their best.
- Psychological Benefits: In addition to the physical benefits of wearing a mouthguard, there are also psychological benefits. Athletes who wear mouthguards are more confident and feel more protected, which can improve their performance and reduce anxiety and stress.
Choosing the Right Dental Device
Choosing the right dental device depends on several factors, including the type and severity of the condition, the patient’s age, and the patient’s lifestyle. Patients with mild to moderate teeth grinding or clenching may benefit from over-the-counter nightguards, while those with severe conditions may require custom-made nightguards. Patients who engage in contact sports or other high-risk activities should consider custom-made mouthguards to ensure maximum protection.
Nightguards and mouthguards are dental devices that provide a protective barrier between the teeth and the outside world. Nightguards are designed to prevent teeth grinding or clenching during sleep, while mouthguards are used to protect the teeth and mouth from injuries during sports activities. Choosing the right dental device depends on several factors, including the type and severity of the condition, the patient’s age, and the patient’s lifestyle. Consult your dentist to determine which dental device is right for your needs.