The coverings people wear on their teeth, mouth guards, aren’t just all the same, nor is every mouth guard created equal. That’s why they don’t have their own Constitution. Granted, they also have no rights to speak of, but the mouth guard you acquire should be one that directly addresses your needs. In general, of course, they protect your teeth, but the question is with regard to what you intend to protect your teeth from. For example, if you’re the kind of person who dreams about eating trail mix at night and you constantly grind your teeth in your sleep, you’re going to need a different mouth guard than one a varsity wrestler might need. Ultimately, there are three types of mouth guards that the average consumer uses.
Stock Mouth Protectors
The common mouth protectors are preformed, and they come ready to wear. Naturally, some take issue with the idea of spending money on mouth protectors that are already molded into a specific shape because, of course, the concern can often be that it may be an uncomfortable fit that cannot be fixed. Indeed, it’s usually not much of an option to attempt adjusting the fit of the general, stock mouth protectors. In addition to being more or less incapable of adjustment, they are also rather—let’s call it—economy-sized. The bulk of these guards can sometimes hinder a person’s breathing to a very minimal extent, mainly for those who tend to breathe through their mouths more than their noses. The upside to this is that it may very well train you to breathe nasally instead, which you should.
To be fair, the tradeoff is obvious with the stock protectors. As one might expect, the convenience of their availability in department stores as well as in sporting good stores comes in exchange for what amounts to a cheap mouth guard. If you’re not particularly persnickety about how well the guard fits your bite, then there’s no reason to spend obscene amounts of money on one. In that case, assuming the stock mouth protectors aren’t inordinately uncomfortable, you can make it work. That being said, no dentist worth his or her salt could recommend you use them in good conscience.
Boil & Bite Protectors
Much like the stock mouth protectors you find everywhere, you can usually find these boil and bite protectors in sporting goods stores as well. Department stores are unlikely to carry them, but sports aficionados understand the likelihood that an active person might need one of these. The primary benefit of listening to your dentist and resisting the frugal urge to buy the incredibly cheap mouth guards is that these are far more likely to actually fit your bite more comfortably.
The so-called boil and bite mouth guards are made out of a thermoplastic material, and you may have seen them in the mouths of those burly, varsity wrestlers. The reason we call them “boil and bite” guards is because that’s exactly what you do to get the ideal fit. You literally boil the thermoplastic guard in order to soften to the point that, when you place it in your mouth, its malleability doubles as conformity such that it actually alters its shape according to how you bite. You’re able to form it the way you need just using your tongue and, if necessary, your fingers.
Custom Mouth Protectors
It probably comes as no surprise that these are the dentist’s recommended bite guards. They are crafted in either a dental office or a professional laboratory, but either way, they’re based on your dentist’s specifications because your dentist will be the one to determine how best to fit your jaw with the optimal, custom mouth protector. In so doing, your dentist makes an impression of your teeth and uses it to mold a mouth guard or sends the impression to a lab where the physical model is made.
Obviously, yes, these are the big-money mouth guards, so to speak. There’s a very complex service being rendered to custom-fit your jaw, and it takes a considerable amount of time compared to the time it takes you to pick one off the shelf in a department store. Equally obvious, though, it’s worth it because this is the best protection and comfort you can get in mouth guard.