It was 1927 in Madison Square Garden, and boxer Mike McTigue was comfortably coasting towards a victory against his opponent, Jack Sharkey.
Yet, headlines later that night would end with McTigue’s defeat from a mouth injury. Future boxers paid attention, and mouth protection via the mouth guard became an essential part of this sport.
Dentists also paid attention, and the mouth guard is now just as integral to dentistry as it is to sports. Just like they do for athletes, dental mouth guards protect teeth from damage, particularly the kind caused by grinding, also known as bruxism.
Why Choose a Night Guard?
A night guard is a device that protects the teeth from the harmful effects of grinding and clenching.
Night guards are typically made of a soft yet durable material, such as silicone or plastic. This material can be molded to fit over the teeth comfortably, preventing the teeth from grinding.
Using a night guard can help manage symptoms like:
- Irritated or sensitive gums
- Sensitive teeth
- Discomfort and pain along cheekbones and jaw
- Headaches and/or ear pain
- “Popping” or “locking” jaw
Bruxism is incredibly common, according to the American Dental Association, with an estimated 10 to 15 percent of adults in the US affected.
How the Right Night Guard Makes a Difference
Most teeth grinders clench and grind their teeth while they sleep. This makes it a difficult habit to track, with most sufferers unaware until a partner hears the grinding noise, or headaches, jaw pain, and other aches start to occur.
Fortunately, the right night guard can make an incredible difference in how bruxism symptoms affect you.
Size Matters: Getting the Right Fit
For teeth grinders, your night guard should become an essential part of your dental routine.
There are several over-the-counter (OTC) mouth guards available at drugstores. These include options that are pre-molded to fit your mouth and models that can be softened in hot water to mold and shape to your teeth.
OTC mouth guards can be a great way to manage bruxism, but dentists do not recommend them for long-term use as they can cause additional damage—such as the shifting of your bite. These complications occur because the guards are not molded to fit your specific bite.
Instead, you should consider getting a customized night guard through your dentist. These are created specifically for your bite with high-resolution images and impressions of the teeth, which are then sent to a dental lab to create a personalized fit.
These night guards are much more durable—often lasting 10 years or longer with proper care. And because they are crafted to fit your teeth and mouth, they are much more comfortable than OTC versions.