Mouth Guards for Sports or Sleeping: What’s the Difference?
Mouth Guards are devices used to protect your teeth from damage caused by grinding, clenching or blunt force trauma. Sounds easy enough! So why all the madness with so many mouth guards to choose from? Unfortunately, not all mouth guards are created equally. Different mouth guards serve different purposes. Like many, you may be asking which mouth guard is the right guard? That all depends on you—your lifestyle, your habits and your needs.
South Anchorage Dental Center provides family dental care, including both cosmetic and medically necessary services. Our compassionate, professional team is here to guide you and determine the best course of treatment for all your dental care needs.
The question alone stirs up images of little boys insisting on wearing their football helmets to bed. As parents, we understand the importance of form meeting function and how the right equipment applied at the wrong time can harm more than help.
Sport mouth guards (athletic guards) are designed specifically to prevent dental injuries sustained in contact sports. Athletic guards use shock absorption to protect the skull and teeth from an impact that could result in a dental emergency. According to the National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety, 10-20% of all sports-related injuries are maxillofacial and an athlete is 60 times more likely to sustain damage to teeth when not wearing a protective mouthguard. Whether you are a hockey family or prefer football or rugby, a properly fitting, custom-made athletic guard from SADC can help prevent serious injury to your smile.
But Why Can’t I Wear a Sports Mouth Guard at Night?
Athletic guards typically are bulkier than night guards. One of their main functions is to prevent you from biting down hard on your cheeks or tongue in the event of a collision. The extra bulk is not conducive to sleep and may cause difficulty with breathing. Athletic guards prop-open the mouth by several millimeters preventing the jaws from closing. Over time, it is possible that wearing this type of guard may even alter your bite.
Another reason why sport guards should never be worn for sleep has to do with plaque. While these bulky guards serve their purpose in sports, they are a haven for bacteria and plaque build-up. The best natural defense against plaque is saliva, which helps neutralize cavity-causing acids. Unfortunately, sport guards offer little to no opportunity for saliva to do its job. This is fine for an hour or two during practice or on game day, but not overnight for 7-8 straight hours. A night guard is a much healthier choice for sleep time.
Bruxism: The Danger That Lurks in the Dark
Have you ever been told that you grind your teeth at night? Do you suffer from headaches in the morning that seem to radiate from your jaw? You may have bruxism, a condition whereby you clench, grind or gnash your teeth. This habit is typically involuntary and commonly occurs at night. Bruxism and blunt force trauma cause entirely different injuries to teeth. You might be surprised to learn the wide ray of damage that can occur while you are sleeping.
Sensitivity is a Sign of Danger of Tooth Decay
Grinding teeth can certainly cause teeth to suddenly chip or break, much like a sports injury. More likely, over time, grinding slowly wears down the enamel of your teeth causing them to become shorter, crack, or even break. Eventually, the pectin, the most sensitive part of your teeth, becomes exposed. This pain is a signal that your teeth may be in trouble. If not treated early, bacteria can invade leading to tooth decay and cavities.
Grinding teeth at night causes inflammation of the gums. When the tissue becomes irritated, the natural response is to run away from the source of pain. Your gum tissue actually retreats in the face of danger, a condition known as receding gum line or gum disease. This causes the roots of teeth to become exposed, making them vulnerable to decay and loosening.
Teeth Grinding and TMJ Pain
Clenching and grinding affect more than your teeth. The temporal mandibular joint (TMJ) refers to the hinges of the jaw, located on each side of your ear. The TMJs connect your lower jawbone to your skull. When the muscles and ligaments become inflamed by bruxism, it can be very painful. Headaches seem to radiate up from the jaw. Chewing, eating, and speaking may become painful too. Over the long haul, night after night, the damage to your jaw can be profound resulting in bone loss or arthritis. Don’t worry! SADC is your source for custom night guards in Anchorage.
Night Guards Protect You While You Sleep
The damage caused by bruxism only gets worse over time. Night guards serve as preventive measures guarding teeth against the damaging effects of grinding. While it doesn’t necessarily stop the grinding, a properly fitting mouth guard protects the teeth and may serve as a cushion to soften the pressure endured by the TMJ. Your SADC dentist understands that a good night’s sleep is imperative for overall wellness and is happy to discuss how a customized night guard can be your best line of defense while sleeping.
Lightweight Night Guards for Daytime Too
Although nighttime is when most people struggle with bruxism, stress is no respecter of time. If you find yourself clenching your teeth during the day, your night guard can be worn anytime. Night guards are lighter weight than sport guards and designed for comfort while sleeping, yet inconspicuous enough for daytime use as well.
What Else Can Be Done to Alleviate Bruxism?
Stress is considered one of the leading causes of bruxism. Stress increases muscle tension, including those connected to the TMJ. The more you clench or grind, the more stress on your teeth and jaw. The cycle may seem to never end. Your SADC dentist recommends wholesome stress relief, especially in the evening before bed:
Yoga or exercise helps release excess energy
Gratitude and a happy attitude to clear the mind
Warm bath with lavender or Epsom salt to ease your body
Brush and floss for freshness and fighting tooth decay while you sleep
Can Straightening Your Teeth Reduce Teeth Grinding?
When teeth are out of alignment, tension increases on the jaw and TMJ. Many people find themselves grinding their teeth as they attempt to find a comfortable biting or resting position for their jaw. Straightening your teeth causes your bite to line up where it should be creating a smile that is both comfortable and beautiful. Fortunately, SADC offers Invisalign in Anchorage. Some Invisalign patients report finding relief for bruxism and a reduction in grinding when they address straightening their teeth. You may be surprised to learn how cosmetic dentistry is more than luxury.
SADC Dental Savings Plan: Quality Care Made Affordable
The best part of our job is you and we take pride in making you smile. SADC accepts most forms of insurance and flexible payment options to make your dream smile affordable and attainable. Don’t have insurance? No problem. We want to see your smile dreams come true, even if you do not have insurance. Our Dental Savings Plan was designed with you in mind.
SADC Dental Savings Plan provides Anchorage families with serious cost savings to the tune of 20% off all treatments including extractions, root canals, crowns, bridges, dentures, cosmetic and more! All applicants are guaranteed acceptance, and you will not be disqualified due to pre-existing conditions.
Now is the Perfect Time to Begin Your Smile Journey!
There’s never been a better time to begin your smile journey. Whether you are looking for general, preventive dentistry or other cosmetic and restorative services, SADC is your trusted name in Anchorage for all your family’s dental care needs.
Call SADC today and let our friendly, family-oriented dental care team put a healthy smile on your face.