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Mouth guards, night guards, and bite splints are designed to protect teeth and gums from excessive wear or damage, whether it be from sports, a dental issue, or a medical condition. While often used interchangeably, bite splints are different from dental guards, because they serve a different purpose.
A mouth guard does just what it sounds like — it guards your teeth. Most commonly used by kids and adults who play sports, a mouth guard prevents teeth from getting cracked, chipped, or knocked out due to contact with another player, a ball or puck, or the field, court or rink. They can also help prevent injuries to the lips, tongue, jaw, and face. Mouth guards are especially important for players of high-impact, high-contact sports like football, basketball, wrestling, hockey, and boxing.
Worn while sleeping, a night guard protects teeth from getting worn down due to unintentional grinding, clenching, or biting. Night guards and mouth guards are collectively referred to as dental guards.
A bite splint, also known as a bite guard, TMJ guard, or occlusal splint, functions similarly to a night guard, in that it protects your teeth as you sleep. In addition to protecting your teeth, a bite splint guides the movement of your jaw, so it lands in its most comfortable and natural position.