Mouth guards are coverings that both children and adults can wear to protect their teeth from getting injured or damaged. There are two types of mouth guards: the ones that are worn during the day (for instance when one plays sports) or the type that is worn at night and prevents damage to the teeth due to teeth grinding at night. One also gets mouth guards that assist in suppressing snoring. The latter prevent the jaw and tongue from falling back into the throat, blocking the air passage and causing snoring. Research has shown that anti-snoring mouth guards deliver better results in reducing or eliminating snoring than other methods.
Mouth guards are mostly made out of thermoplastic, meaning that it is a polymer that is shaped upon heating. They are moldable and less prone to cracking or splitting under stress, possess a great deal of elasticity, and are flexible and extremely durable. Other mouth guards are made from polyurethane which is also a polymer. These mouth guards will normally feel like rubber but are more durable than rubber.
Children and adults who play contact sports like basketball, football, ice or field hockey, lacrosse, and those who practice boxing should wear mouth guards. We also recommend that those who participate in non-contact sports like baseball/softball and skateboarding or mountain biking should wear them, as these activities also pose a risk of injury to the mouth. Mouth guards will protect your teeth from damage like chipping, getting broken or losing some teeth altogether.
Nocturnal bite plates or bite splints should be worn at night by those who grind their teeth at night to prevent tooth wear and damage. Nightly teeth grinding will wear down the enamel of your teeth, putting them at risk of tooth decay.
As a rule mouth guards will only cover your upper teeth. However, if you wear braces or have a fixed dental appliance on your lower jaw, your dentist might decide that you need a mouth guard to protect your lower teeth as well.
It is true that mouth guards are readily available as over-the-counter items. Over-the-counter mouth guards are often bulky though and still really offer little to no protection, so if you are serious about protecting your teeth, rather consult with your dentist and obtain a custom-made and dentist-fitted mouth guard or mouth protector that will cater for your individual needs. Effective mouth guards will be comfortable to wear, will be durable and not tear, easy to clean and should not impact on your breathing or speech.