Is your mouth guard or splint up to scratch?

Do you know how to choose the right mouth guard/splint? Did you know that dentists use two specific types of mouth guard? Can you tell the difference between a night guard and a sports guard? Before you bite the bullet and get a new one, read our helpful blog.

If you’ve already invested in a mouth guard, you’ve taken a step in the right direction when it comes to protecting your smile. Now is the perfect time to check that your purchase is fit for purpose.

Night mouth guards/splints

Do I need to wear a night mouth guard/splint?

Your dentist is most likely to prescribe a night mouth guard/splint if you grind your teeth, a condition known as bruxism. In addition to wearing a mouth guard/splint, it’s important to identify the root cause of the grinding. This typically falls into four categories:

  1. sleep disorders including excessive snoring or sleep apnoea
  2. lifestyle factors including smoking, drinking alcohol or having high caffeine intake (which can act as a stimulant)
  3. Stress, anxiety and other psychological components. 70% of bruxism is caused by one of these emotional conditions. This is particularly prevalent in those people who work shifts
  4. psychotropic medicines used in the treatment of depression.

How does a night guard/splint work?

The night guard/splint works because it fits closely over the lower teeth and has a smooth upper surface against which the top teeth bite. As the surface is smooth, the upper teeth can’t interlock and the jaw muscles are not overworked.

Night mouth guards/splints as a deprogramming device called gnathological splints

Did you know that you actually have two different ways of our teeth meeting together, centric occlusion and centric relation? Centric occlusion (CO) describes the relationship of your teeth when they are fully interdigitated and all of the cusps are interlocked. Centric relation (CR) describes the relationship of your jaw when the condyles are in their most relaxed and natural position.

The ideal situation is for centric occlusion (CO) and centric relation (CR) to be the same, in this situation the muscles in your jaw which determine centric relation will be completely relaxed at the point at which all of your teeth fully interdigitate – this is called neuro muscular release.

However, this relationship of having centric relation and centric occlusion occurring at the same time does not always happen naturally. A highly trained and experienced dentist and dental technician can make and fit these mouth guards/splints that can deprogram the muscles around your head, face and neck. By encouraging your jaw to sit back into the condyles, your muscles will relax. This means that, when you wake up in the morning, your jaw will be in a fully relaxed and natural position. The gnathological splint is the ‘Rolls Royce’ of splints – the upper splint is called a Michigan and the lower splint, a Tanner.

When fitted and adjusted well, these splints will have a dramatic effect on your life as they offer long term protection for all your teeth including fillings or crowns as well as your joints and muscles.  Additionally all muscle pain as well as your headaches should disappear as the muscles relax when wearing the mouthguard/splint.

Sports protection

Sports protection mouth guards are there to protect your teeth and jaw during contact sports. By spreading impact across a larger area, teeth and jaw fractures can be reduced in severity or potentially prevented entirely.

Sports guards come in three distinct types:

  1. ready-to-wear
  2. boil and bite
  3. custom-made.

Ready-to-wear sports mouth guards

Ready-to-wear sports protectors can be purchased from most supermarkets, sports shops and pharmacists. They will be a generic size, which means they can be uncomfortable to wear. Some patients then find that the guard rubs and causes mouth ulcers. Equally, they offer the lowest form of protection.

What are the advantages?

  • quick
  • low cost

What are the disadvantages?

  • offer the lowest level of protection
  • may cause ulcers or be uncomfortable.

Boil and bite sports mouth guards

This type of sports protector offers a small level of customisation. This is achieved when the plastic guard is softened in hot water. The product requires users to keep the guard in hot water, place it in the mouth and bite together. As the plastic cools it forms naturally around the teeth.

Whilst being better than non-customised mouth guards, these can still be uncomfortable to wear. Some patients still feed back that they can rub and cause ulcers.

What are the advantages?

  1. quick
  2. cost effective
  3. offers a small level of customisation.

What are the disadvantages?

  1. The level of protection is reduced (suitable for low impact contact sports only)
  2. Can be uncomfortable and result in ulcers.

Custom-made sports guards

These are thought to offer the highest level of protection and are the preferred choice of professional athletes ranging from rugby players right through to boxers. The guard will be custom-made by a skilled dental technician to exactly fit over your teeth. The material used will also be high-performance and capable of deflecting large amounts of force.

Whenever you have a sports guard made you should advise your dentist of the type of sport you will be participating in. High contact sports such as martial arts, boxing and rugby will require a few extra layers of sports guard material to ensure full protection.

What are the advantages?

  1. offers the highest level of protection for teeth and jaw
  2. suitable for all sports including high impact and contact sports.

What are the disadvantages?

  1. take longer to produce (typically one week)
  2. more expensive.