Mouth guards for sports and for sleeping serve very different purposes. You shouldn’t use one type of mouth guard for the other purpose. They are made differently for very good reasons. You need to be aware of these differences in order to understand why you should choose one over the other or, if necessary, get one of each.
Differences in Design
Sports guards are designed to protect your mouth from being damaged by an impact while you are playing sports. A good sports mouthguard will protect your teeth, gums and cheeks. Ordinarily, you only need to wear a mouth guard on your upper teeth; however, if you have braces, you will probably want to wear a guard on the bottom, too. This will give you extra protection against cutting your cheek. There is also evidence showing that a good mouthguard can reduce the severity of a head injury.
According to the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine, “they may also decrease the risk of concussion.”
Night guards are designed to wear while you are sleeping. There are several different types of night mouthguards which are designed for the following purposes:
- Improve air flow to reduce snoring
- Improve air flow to help sleep apnea sufferers
- Protect teeth from grinding and clenching
Mouthguards for people who snore or have sleep apnea are designed differently from night guards for teeth grinding and clenching. Night guards for snorers or sleep apnea sufferers are designed to actually improve air flow. Mouthguards for people who suffer from bruxism or grind and clench their teeth while they sleep are designed to protect the tooth surface. They fit snug over the teeth and have a tough, smooth surface so the teeth will slide easily with little to no resistance.
Differences in Materials
Sports mouthguards are made of softer, more pliable material. This material is designed to absorb the force of an impact and actually redistribute it to reduce its severity. Some over-the-counter sports guards are even made of material that is designed to soften in hot water and conform to your teeth.
Health Canada strongly recommends that you “Check your mouthguard regularly for wear and tear.”
Night mouthguards are made with a harder material. They must be hard and smooth so the teeth will easily slide over the surface. Because they are made with harder material and need to be formed to your teeth and mouth, night guards should be made by your dentist. He or she will take a mold of your teeth and have the mouthguard made. It will fit snugly over your teeth and stay firmly in place for optimum protection at night.