It used to be a badge of honour among hockey players if they could smile and reveal several missing teeth. These gap-toothed smiles were intended as a sure sign of time spent on the ice. But hockey’s toothless era appears to have passed, thanks to the rise of the mouth guard.
Mouth guards are plastic forms designed to fit around your teeth. Sometimes mouth guards come pre-made, but the most effective kind are available from a dentist. The dentist uses a special mould to take an impression of your teeth, and this mould becomes the model for a custom mouth guard that fits your mouth perfectly. In addition to preventing yourself from getting an old-school hockey grin, there are many reasons to wear a mouth guard. Review the top four below to find out if you should look into getting a mouth guard. 1. You Play Sports As you probably guessed, the primary reason to wear a mouth guard is to protect your teeth while playing sports. The speed, intensity of play, and jostling with other players can lead to serious teeth injuries—unless athletes protect their mouths. That’s where a mouth guard comes in. As its name implies, a mouth guard shields teeth from blows that happen frequently and unexpectedly during sporting events. By wearing a mouth guard whenever you play fast-paced or contact sports, you guarantee you’ll be smiling ear to ear both before and after the game. But what sports is a mouth guard recommended for? It probably wouldn’t hurt to wear a mouth guard playing most sports, but if you or your child regularly plays any of the sports below, see your dentist about having a custom mouth guard fitted:
Sometimes local leagues or school teams require mouth guards for certain sports, so check with coaches to make sure you’re complying with these rules. 2. You Grind Your Teeth at Night Grinding your teeth against each other occasionally isn’t a problem. But when people do it frequently, it can damage teeth. They become loose, fractured or even come out when tooth grinding is excessive. These problems often require corrective dental work, making teeth grinding an expensive bad habit. What’s worse is if you grind your teeth while you sleep, you can’t control it on your own. You’re in dreamland, but your teeth are actively wearing themselves away, little by little. You may not even be aware you grind your teeth, unless your partner tells you about it. Other signs you grind your teeth while you’re sleeping include dull headaches or jaw pain in the morning. For people who grind their teeth at night, mouth guards are a good solution. These mouth guards, sometimes called night guards, are worn on both the top and bottom teeth. That way, even if the grinding continues, the teeth stay protected from self-inflicted damage. 3. You Wear Braces or Have Bridgework If you have traditional metal braces, it may seem strange to want to add a mouth guard to the mix. Wouldn’t a mouth guard just make your mouth more uncomfortable? Actually, no. For people who wear braces, a mouth guard actually puts a barrier between your braces and the inside of your mouth. The mouth guard can reduce irritation in your mouth caused by your braces rubbing against your cheeks or the inside of your lips. You won’t have to wear the mouth guard at all times, but you should definitely invest in one if you wear braces and regularly play contact sports. A mouth guard’s advantages are also great for people who wear dental bridgework. Bridges replace missing or lost teeth permanently, but they can be more susceptible to damage or injury than regular teeth. Make sure your dental bridge stays firmly in place by wearing a mouth guard when your teeth are likely to take a blow or two. 4. You Have TMD or TMJ TMD, or temporomandibular disorder, is any condition that causes jaw joint pain or jaw muscle strain. Sometimes people refer to these disorders as TMJ, which stands for temporomandibular joint (the bones that meet at these joints are the temporal bones and the mandible). A mouth guard relieves TMD pain because it immobilizes these jaw joints. Doing this prevents the mouth from opening too wide, sitting incorrectly or otherwise straining the jaw muscles. If you suspect you have some form of TMD, speak with your dentist about whether a custom mouth guard will help relieve your symptoms. If your dentist thinks a mouth guard can help your TMD, he or she will let you know when to wear it. You’ll likely only need to wear it every few days or at night while you’re sleeping. If you play sports, grind your teeth, wear braces, or have TMD, a mouth guard can be a great investment. It will protect your teeth and keep you smiling. Your dentist can help you determine if a mouth guard is right for you, so ask about one at your next appointment.