Mouthguards are little devices that can be worn in the mouth for a wide range of reasons. They serve either protective functions or can be used to treat specific disorders. There are a wide variety of mouthguards available in the market that claim to treat different disorders like sleep apnea & many others. However, it is always advisable to get a professional consultation before using over-the-counter devices to treat sleep disorders yourself.
Uses of a Mouthguard
High-impact sports and activities like football, basketball, boxing, hockey, cycling, volleyball, and many others like them carry a high risk of injuries, especially to the face. Wearing a mouthguard while participating in such activities helps in protecting the teeth and other intraoral structures.
In Teeth Grinding:
Teeth clenching and grinding falls under the category of a condition known as bruxism. Bruxism is typically a sleep-associated disorder, and the grinding activity usually occurs at night when the individual is asleep. Patients of bruxism often find themselves waking up with pain in the jaws or even sore gums. Teeth grinding and clenching also puts unnecessary, destructive forces on the teeth and can severely damage them.
Wearing a mouthguard in the night protects the teeth from the forces of grinding and clenching. It helps in correct muscle positioning in the jaws and also reduces the strain on the jaws.
To Treat Sleep Apnea:
Sleep apnea is a sleep-associated breathing disorder. Patients who have sleep apnea have multiple episodes during the night in which their breathing temporarily stops. It is a potentially life-threatening disorder that requires immediate intervention.
The treatment of sleep apnea usually requires the use of the CPAP machine, or in some cases, even surgery. However, mild sleep apnea can be treated with the help of custom-made mouthguards that should be worn during sleep. Mouthguards work by pushing the lower jaw and tongue forward, and in this way, open up the airway.
To Prevent Snoring:
Mouthguards help in the reduction of snoring and work very similar to mouthguards used for sleep apnea. While there are over-the-counter mouthguards available that guarantee to be a cure for snoring, there has been no substantial proof of the same. The best results may be obtained by custom-made mouthguards designed specifically for the purpose by a dentist.
If you wear braces, it may be a good idea to wear a mouthguard before participating in any activity that might damage the braces. A mouthguard would also protect the teeth, tongue, lips and cheeks from being hurt by the braces. Unlike mouthguards worn by athletes, the type that are worn on top of braces cover both the upper and lower teeth.
Types of Mouthguards
These are the most commonly used and also the most affordable type of mouthguards. They usually come in three sizes, small, medium and large – and most of them cover just the upper teeth. They are mostly used by sportsmen and hence, can be easily found in sports stores and even pharmacies. The limited options in size is the major drawback of stock mouthguards, which may not fit tightly in the mouth and can be uncomfortable to wear.
Very similar to stock mouthguards, bite-and-block types are also inexpensive and easily available in drugstores. The main difference lies in the fact that they can be customized to fit the mouth. They come in one size that needs to be boiled till the mouthguard softens. It is then placed in the mouth over the front teeth, and the person bites down on it, molding the mouthguard to fit the individual’s mouth snugly.
Custom-made mouthguards are specifically used to treat disorders like sleep apnea or snoring or to protect the teeth from grinding or clenching. They are fabricated professionally by a dentist and fit tightly in the mouth. This makes them harder to dislodge accidentally while the patient is asleep and more comfortable to wear. Since custom-made mouthguards require the expertise of a dentist, they are more expensive than the readymade kinds.
It should be kept in mind that mouthguards require frequent replacements. They should be kept clean and should be checked regularly for any holes or signs of wear that might occur over time.