The Need For Custom Fit Mouth Guards


           Many dental patients will need to wear a mouth guard of some kind, whether it be a nightguard (also called a bite or occlusal splint) to prevent oral problems caused by grinding and clenching or an athletic guard (also called a mouth protector) to avert injuries that may occur while participating in contact sports. You should understand that there is a significant difference between one that is custom made for you by Dr. McArdle and the stock types that are available in drug stores and through sporting goods dealers.

           According to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), by definition, a custom-made oral appliance of any kind is one that is made using a model of your mouth acquired from an impression taken by a dentist. Mouth pieces in pharmacies or sports shops are not, and clearly cannot be, custom fit. The stock guards obtainable from retail outlets sold ready to use generally come in only a few sizes, are bulky, lack proper retention while interfering with both speech and breathing. This latter characteristic can make it almost impossible for you to wear them at night when they are needed to prevent oral conditions caused by grinding or clenching your teeth during sleep. For contact sports, these attributes make them the least protective of the commercial mouth guards. Athletes also often try to modify these products by cutting or otherwise altering them, which makes them even more suspect. More commonly, the so called "boil-and-bite" mouth guards are used in athletics. They are formed in the mouth after immersion in boiling water by biting pressure aided with finger and tongue molding. They also come in just fixed sizes, often cause you to gag and can be bit through during the fashioning process. At least 70% of their thickness is normally lost through the boil-and-bite procedure. This can increase the chances of you suffering a concussion from a blow to the chin while engaging in contact sports. In the final analysis, studies have shown that generic mouth guards of any type cannot and will not provide you with the kind of care, prevention and protection that a custom-made nightguard or mouth protector constructed by a dentist will afford you.


Boil & bite mouthguards are ill fitting and incomplete.

           Mouth guards that are custom made for you by a dentist will be better adapted, more retentive, more comfortable and more stable while having almost no effect on breathing and the least interference with speech. These qualities enable the custom-made appliances to be the most effective and protective possible. Comfort is paramount for an occlusal splint as you will have difficulty getting to sleep with an uncomfortable unit or you will reflexively remove it during sleep only to find it, like a mint, on your pillow in the morning. Only a dentist can customize one of these guards for your bite, which is critical if you are wearing it for problems with your TMJs where a bite discrepancy may cause you to chomp all night inducing painful muscle spasms. If you need an athletic guard for contact sports, the heat and pressure-laminated type custom fitted for you by a dentist will furnish you with the most protection from oral trauma and from concussion. Studies have also shown that custom-made occlusal splints and mouth protectors exhibit minimal deformation through even extended use whereas their stock counterparts distort appreciably in a relatively short period of time.



A custom splint for grinding in full contact at rest separates back teeth in sideways or forward movement to protect them.




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Dr. Barry F. McArdle, D.M.D. ~ 118 Maplewood Avenue, The Captain Moses House, Suite B-7, Portsmouth, NH 03801

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