Mouth Guards, Night Guards, and Bite Splints
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.
What’s the Difference Between a Mouth Guard, Night Guard, and a Bite Splint?
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.
How Much Does a Mouth Guard, Night Guard, or Bite Splint Cost?
Mouth Guards, Night Guards, and Bite Splints FAQs
- Custom-fitted: A custom-fitted mouth guard or night guard is considered the best option and what we recommend, because it is the most comfortable and provides the best fit, which leads to the best protection. It is made exactly to your mouth, by your dentist.
- Boil and bite: These mouth protectors can be bought at many sporting goods stores and drugstores and may offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. They are first softened in water (boiled), then inserted. They adapt to the shape of the mouth as they cool. However, boil and bite mouth guards do not fit as well as custom-made mouth guards, often feel bulky, and do not work well with braces.
- Stock or pre-made: These are inexpensive and can be worn immediately. Usually they are made of a foam material. Stock mouth guards do not usually fit very well. They are known to make breathing and talking difficult, making them especially challenging to wear during organized sports.
- Permissive bite splints: The most common bite splint, permissive bite splints, prevent the biting surface of the teeth from touching and open up the bite.
- Non-permissive bite splints: These move specific parts of the jaw, the condyles, into proper alignment.
- Hydrostatic splint: Used to treat teeth grinding, tension headaches, and TMJ disorders (more on that below), a hydrostatic bite splint is filled with water. When someone bites down on it, the fluid evenly distributes across their bite, causing the muscles to relax.
- Silicone splint: Made from silicone and used for treating myofascial pain syndrome.
- Stabilization splint: Typically used to help patients with TMDs (see below), stabilization splints are made from hard acrylic or polycarbonate.
- Pain or tenderness in your face, jaw, neck, shoulders, and/or in and around your ears when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide
- Headaches, earaches, or tinnitus
- Clicking, popping, or locking of the jaw
- Teeth clenching or grinding
- A change in your bite (how your teeth come together)
- Limited mobility of your mouth
- Sensitive teeth without any other underlying dental issue
- Rinse or brush your teeth before and after each use.
- Regularly clean the dental guard or bite splint in cool, soapy water. Then, rinse it thoroughly.
- During your regular dental checkups, bring your mouth guard, night guard or bite splint for an evaluation. Your dentist may also take time during your checkup to give it a thorough cleaning.
- Store and transport the mouth guard, night guard, or bite splint in a sturdy container that has vents so it can dry and prevent bacteria from growing on it.
- Never leave a dental guard or bite splint in the sun or in hot water.