What’s the Difference Between Mouthguards and Night Guards?
Mouthguards and night guards both play an essential role in protecting your teeth and maintaining good oral health. However, despite their apparent similarities, mouthguards and night guards serve different purposes and have distinct features.
Whether you’re considering purchasing a mouthguard for your child’s sporting activities or have been advised by your dentist to wear a night guard, read on to discover the differences between mouthguards and night guards – and how each device can help you enjoy better dental health and wellbeing.
What’s the difference between a mouthguard and a night guard?
A mouthguard serves as a dental appliance used to safeguard your teeth during physical activities, notably contact sports. Its primary purpose is to provide a protective barrier for your teeth and gums against potential impacts that may occur during such activities, thereby reducing the risk of damage and potential injuries.
A night guard is a dental device designed to be worn overnight. Night guards focus specifically on protecting your teeth against the damaging effects of a condition called bruxism, which is characterised by grinding or clenching your teeth and commonly co-occurs with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, most commonly during sleep.
As well as preventing teeth grinding and clenching, night guards are also used to provide relief from the pain and discomfort associated with bruxism.
The Oral Health Benefits of Mouthguards vs. Night Guards
Mouth guards and your oral health
- Protection during physical activities: The main purpose of a mouthguard is to protect the teeth, gums and jaws during physical activities such as contact sports. These can include sports such as football, hockey and boxing. Mouthguards act as a cushion to absorb the impact of blows or hits to the face, helping to prevent dental injuries such as chipped or knocked-out teeth.
- Prevention of soft tissue injuries: As well as protecting the teeth from damage, mouthguards also reduce the risk of injury to the soft tissues of the mouth, such as the lips, cheeks and tongue. By providing a barrier, mouthguards minimise the chance of cuts and bruises in these areas.
The role of night guards in oral health
- Protection against bruxism: Night guards are most commonly used to protect against the damaging effects of bruxism. By creating a physical barrier between the upper and lower teeth, night guards (sometimes called ‘sleeping guards’) reduce the damage caused by these grinding and clenching movements.
- Bruxism pain and symptom relief: As well as providing protection for teeth, night guards are also used to relieve the symptoms of bruxism. These symptoms can include jaw pain, muscle tension, and headaches. By reducing the pressure on the teeth and jaws, night guards can help alleviate pain and discomfort.
- Preservation of tooth structure: By preventing damage such as fractures, enamel erosion and excessive wear and tear caused by bruxism, night guards play a crucial role in safeguarding the integrity and longevity of teeth
Are Custom Mouth Guards Better Than Generic Mouthguards?
When faced with the decision of selecting a mouthguard, you might contemplate the choice between a custom device provided by your dentist or a generic over-the-counter mouth guard.
While both are designed to provide protection for your teeth and mouth, there are some important differences between these two types of mouthguards.
- Comfort and fit: As custom mouthguards are made specifically for your teeth using 3D impressions of your mouth, they offer superior comfort and a precise fit. Generic mouthguards, on the other hand, may not be as comfortable and provide a less-than-perfect fit.
- Protection: Due to their better fit, custom mouthguards generally provide better protection and shock absorption compared to generic mouthguards. By distributing the force of impact more evenly, custom mouthguards are often more effective at reducing the risk of dental and jaw injuries.
- Durability: Custom mouthguards are usually more durable due to their customised design, which makes them less likely to wear out or become damaged quickly. Generic mouthguards may need to be replaced more frequently.
- Cost: The cost of a custom mouthguard will typically be higher than a generic mouthguard, due to the process involved in creating a custom-fitted device.
It’s evident that both mouthguards and night guards are vital for safeguarding your oral health, yet they serve distinct functions. Mouthguards provide protection against physical injuries, whereas night guards are designed to mitigate the damage resulting from teeth grinding and clenching.
If you think you may need a mouthguard or a night guard, contact with your dentist to discuss the best solution for you.