Sore jaw? Restless nights? Play sports? If any of these apply to you, you might be surprised to hear that you could use a mouthguard!
Functions of Mouthguards
Mouthguards are solid pieces of plastic that keep your teeth and jaw in a specific resting position. The basic function of a mouthguard is protection. Mouthguards help prevent accidental mouth injuries, ease pain from grinding your teeth, and can even help patients with trouble sleeping.
They usually only cover the top row of teeth, but can sometimes be made to cover the bottom row too. You can buy a mouthguard pre-made, custom-made, or use the “boil and bite” method for something in the middle. Custom mouthguards from your La Crosse dentist offer the highest level of protection and the most comfortable fit, but no matter where you get your mouthguard, actually wearing it is the most important part.
Types of Mouthguards
All mouthguards look and function mostly the same, but they might be slightly different based on the need they serve. The main uses for mouthguards include:
- Sports: Athletes are 60 times more likely to harm their teeth if they aren’t wearing a mouthguard. (Wow!) Even sports where you aren’t likely to crash into another person run a risk against your mouth. And adults aren’t excluded from this—dentists recommend that people of all ages use a mouthguard when participating in sports or outdoor activities. An injury to the mouth could cause permanent tooth loss, or serious injury to your tongue and lips.
- Night Guards: According to the American Dental Association, bruxism or teeth grinding is very common and occurs in 10-15% of all adults. Grinding your teeth at night can cause tooth damage, headaches, and a sore jaw. A night guard can prevent grinding and the negative side effects. Bruxism can be a serious problem and you should talk with your dentist and doctor about any and all reasons you might be grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw, especially if it’s leading to bigger problems like temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
- Sleep Apnea: If you temporarily stop breathing in your sleep, a mouthguard or oral appliance can help hold your tongue and lower jaw in place to improve airflow. Sleep apnea can cause a lot of problems for your oral and overall health such as dry mouth and exhaustion, and can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. A mouthguard can also help you stop snoring. Not all cases of sleep apnea can be treated with a mouthguard so ask your dentist or doctor what’s best for you.
And yes, you can wear a mouthguard even if you have braces. Imagine how much more painful it might be to have an accident with braces involved! Talk with your dentist about finding a mouth guard that fits properly and suits your needs.
Care for your mouthguard by regularly cleaning it with soap and water, brushing it with a toothbrush and toothpaste, and keeping it in a ventilated case to prevent bacteria from growing.
Even with the best prevention, if you do experience an accidental injury to your mouth, emergency dentistry is here for you. Most dentists have an answering service after office hours; so don’t hesitate to call at any time if you need help.
If you experience trouble with long-term issues like TMJ, teeth grinding, or sleep apnea, talk with your dentist. Fixing your oral health can drastically improve many other areas of your life.