Mouth guards are crucial equipment for safeguarding your teeth and mouth when playing contact sports. Athletes often wear a sports mouth guard to protect their teeth, mouth, and jaw from injury. But mouth guards, like any other item of safety equipment, have a limited cycle of use and will ultimately need to be replaced.
How often a sports mouth guard needs to be replaced depends on many factors, such as whether it is custom-made, what protective material it is made from, what sport it is used for, and how long the sports season lasts.
Ensuring that their mouth, teeth, and jaw have adequate protection is of vital importance to athletes, and as such, knowing when to replace mouth guards once they have lost their efficacy is critical. Read on to learn when to stop wearing your old sports mouth guard and get a new one. Your beautiful smile might thank you for it!
Table of Contents
What is a Mouth Guard?
A sports mouth guard protects athletes from a potential contact sports injury such as tooth loss or a broken jaw.
These pieces of equipment do more than protect your teeth during the sports season. An academic article published in the Primary Dental Journal notes that a sports mouth guard can protect the entire outer surface of the face and even potentially reduce the impact of forces on the skull by redistributing the force evenly throughout the mandible and mouth.
The article also mentions that a sports mouth guard generally fits one of three descriptors:
- A standard sports mouth guard is ready to wear upon purchase. This type of mouth guard offers the least protection since it may be too loose or too tight for certain people.
- A sports mouth guard can be molded into shape by activating its malleable material with hot water. Compared to a standard mouth guard, this is a more reliable choice to protect your teeth.
- A custom-made mouth guard is the best option to protect your teeth if you participate in contact sports, offering unmatched safety for your mouth due to a perfect fit.
Wearing a sports mouth guard is especially important for athletes who recently had dental work done. After dental treatment, the area is fragile and may be increasingly prone to injury.
A study published in the Dental Traumatology journal found that wearing mouth guards resulted in lower incidences of mouth injuries in contact sports. Likewise, a survey published in the same journal found that sports mouth guards reduce the likelihood of dental trauma in handball players. However, the latter publication notes that despite their efficacy, players used mouth guards sparingly during the sports season for handball.
What is the Difference Between a Mouth Guard and a Night Guard?
While mouth guards are used by athletes who play contact sports and wish to avoid a sports injury, night guards are used by dental professionals (e.g., by a dentist) to supplement dental or orthodontic treatment by preventing teeth grinding.
Individuals suffering from bruxism (informally known as teeth grinding) bite down and grind their teeth due to stress, strain, or unconsciously in their sleep, causing the erosion of the entire outer surface of the teeth. Bruxism can eventually detrimentally impact overall oral health. Not only does it degrade enamel, but it can also make your teeth shift.
A night guard mitigates teeth grinding, alleviating symptoms such as headaches and a painful mouth, as opposed to safeguarding against acute injuries.
Why Do Mouth Guards Need to Be Replaced?
Obtaining a new mouth guard becomes necessary if the wear and tear on your current one impede its function. If you do not replace a mouth guard when necessary, you run the risk of injury. Over time, the mouth guard’s protective material may weaken, affecting its ability to absorb force.
Additionally, a mouth guard may lose its shape over time. A significant part of a mouth guard’s efficacy depends on adequately fitting in the mouth, thereby shielding vulnerable areas. If your mouth guard is loose, it is time to replace it.
A mouth guard can also become obsolete if there are structural changes to your mouth. For example, if you have recently experienced tooth loss or undergone dental treatment, there is no guarantee that your current mouth guard still fits properly. Adolescents might need to change mouth guards regularly, particularly after the jaw grows significantly.
How Often Should You Replace Your Mouth Guard?
Determining an estimated time frame for a mouth guard is difficult since individuals who use them play various sports at varying frequencies. Depending on which sport it is being used for, a mouth guard may be subject to sudden, damaging forces.
To determine whether you need a new mouth guard, you need to pay attention to the signs of deterioration of your current one. Orthodontists recommend replacing a mouth guard if you notice cracks, a tear, or any other signs of deformation.
If there are any structural changes to your mouth, such as having experienced tooth loss, you might need to replace your mouth guard to restore its perfect fit.
How Long Do Night Guards Last?
Since night guards protect your teeth against the gradual effects of teeth grinding, unlike a mouth guard that protects against sudden external force, predicting its durability is more realistic.
The longevity of a night guard, like that of a mouth guard, depends on several factors, including its quality, overall fit, and the underlying cause of the teeth grinding. If the cause of the grinding is that the lower teeth do not fit behind the upper teeth correctly, the stressors will be different compared to a bite down due to mental health distress.
High-quality night guards last longer due to the strength of the material used to protect your teeth, while a custom-fit night guard will last longer than a standard night guard. A perfect fit ensures that the pressure caused by teeth grinding is absorbed correctly, thereby attenuating the deterioration of the night guard itself.
The severity of the bite that a night guard has to endure also affects its resilience. Severe grinders need to replace a night guard more often than those with a moderate condition. This is due to the pressure the night guard has to endure to protect your teeth.
By deep cleaning your night guard, you can reduce the rate you need to replace it. Your orthodontist can give you guidance on how to deep-clean your night guard.
How Often Should I Change My Night Guard?
Like a mouth guard, there will often be clear signs that you need to replace your night guard. The recurrence of teeth-grinding symptoms, such as dental pain and headaches, could indicate that your night guard is failing to protect your teeth adequately.
If your dentist or orthodontist recommends a change in orthodontic treatment, they might also suggest a change in a night guard to protect your teeth appropriately.
It is essential to consult a dentist or another dental professional if you are unsure when to replace your night guard or if you fear that its efficacy might be reduced.
Start Your Orthodontic Treatment at Loudoun Orthodontics!
Contact Loudoun Orthodontics if you think mouth guards are the solution to your dental woes. Whether you want to learn more about the benefits of mouth guards or have questions about the process, use our live chat or call (703) 858-0303 or send us a message through our contact us page to connect with our friendly staff today to book a free orthodontic consultation! Our office, located at 19465 Deerfield Ave, Suite 304, Leesburg, VA 20176, proudly serves not just Loudoun County but also the Greater Washington DC area. So, if you’re residing in Ashburn, Lansdowne, or Sterling, and are looking for one of the best orthodontists in Virginia, don’t hesitate to visit our office! We also invite you to keep up with our blog to get answers to many of the frequently asked questions about maintaining sparkling oral health. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to become a part of our smiling community!
- “Types of Mouth Guards & How They Protect Your Teeth.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10910-mouthguards. Accessed 18 Jan. 2023.
- The Role of Mouthguards in Preventing and Reducing Sports-Related …, journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1308/205016817821281738. Accessed 18 Jan. 2023.
- “Do I Really Need a Night Guard?” Colgate®, www.colgate.com/en-za/oral-health/bruxism/do-i-need-a-night-guard. Accessed 18 Jan. 2023.