What are they?
Bite guards are also known as occlusal guards or splints. They fit around the surfaces of the teeth in either upper or bottom teeth, sometimes both. They cover some of the gum as well. They should be comfortable and easy to put in and out around the teeth. They have a huge number of uses but mostly they are for protecting the teeth. They are often a clear material and worn at night. Mouth guards sound similar but they are usually used to protect the teeth when playing sports. The ones produced by the dentist are custom made so will be made specifically for you.
When are they used?
Bite guards main purpose is to protect the teeth. This can be because of tooth wear caused by clenching or grinding the teeth, which is more common at night, especially if stressed. If you notice you are clenching and grinding during the day and causing pain you can choose to wear it during the day also, but that is up to you. They can be used in adults or in children, but are more common in adults. By wearing the guard when you grind or clench the guard gets worn away instead of the teeth, which is why they are good at preventing any further damage. When guards get very worn a new one can be made which will vary times wise from patient to patient.
What types are there?
The most common ones that are made are soft guards. These are very bendy and fit over the teeth. These are usually the starting point for a guard as there are fewer visits needed and often a cheaper option for patients. They are made of a plastic which feels quite rubbery but many patients find them very comfortable to wear and easy to get used to.
Hard guards are made of plastic as well except are rigid. They are quite a bit thicker than the soft options but they tend to last longer. They are also known as Michigan splint if it sits on the top teeth or a Tanner if it is made for the bottom teeth. They take longer to make and need more planning so do come with a higher cost. Some patients find them more challenging to adjust to; however, if they grind or clench a lot a hard guard might be a better approach.
How are they made?
The first stage for either type of guard will be impressions taken of the upper and lower jaw. These will then be made into models so the guard can be made. That is the only stage that is needed for a soft guard.
An additional stage is needed for a hard guard, which will involve something called a Facebow. It allows the laboratory (who will make the guard) to be able to re-create how your teeth come together and get it made specifically for your mouth and bite. Due to this extra stage it takes longer for the dentist and is more challenging for the lab to make, which is why the cost is increased.
How long should they last?
Soft guards can last between 6 months to 2 years depending on the habits of the patients. If you clench or grind a lot it will wear much faster. It also depends on the frequency that you wear it. After this period of time they are often very worn and start to discolour.
Hard guards usually last longer, but again depend on patient behaviour and habits. They tend to keep their shape and last a long time if they are looked after. 2 years is recommended for remakes of this type as they may become brittle.
How do I look after it?
Usually pots can be bought to store them in. After wearing it you should rinse it under water to clean anything off or gentle brushing with a clean toothbrush. Hard guards should additionally be stored in room temperature water when you aren’t wearing it to prevent it becoming brittle or warping.
How much do they cost?
Prices vary depending on the type of guard you need/want and may be between £280-£500. Always remember to discuss with your dentist all of your options and which approach is best for you.