I have used mouthguards in various sports, from ice hockey to some beginner sparring at boxing, and one thing I have noticed is that people often mix them with nightguards, at least on some level. However, they are widely different even though they appear to work the same. So, what’s the difference between a mouthguard and a nightguard?
Mouthguards safeguard teeth from physical blows in a sports match, while a nightguard is used to protect teeth from bruxism. Mouthguards are made of ethylene-vinyl acetate and cost $15-$25 on average, while nightguards are made of acrylic plastic material and cost $100-$1,000.
These guards tend to have similarities in improving teeth function, but they differ in terms of materials, purpose, and price. Both have the option to customize guards based on the dentist’s requirement, budget, and recommendation. Before you use them, learn the differences to use them appropriately.
A mouthguard acts as an accessory to avoid gums, teeth, and lips injuries. A night guard is highly recommended if you suffer from bruxism (habitual teeth grinding). However, the mouthguard is highly recommended for sports players.
The mouthguard remains between the first and second molar and gives comfort. On the other hand, the night guard is meant to safeguard teeth, especially when you fall asleep. Before wearing a nightguard, it is essential to consult the dentist to decide on the right model based on the mouth.
A mouthguard is relevant for sports like field hockey, football, rugby, volleyball, gymnastics, frisbee, boxing, and lacrosse. At the same time, a nightguard is meant for use during the night.
You must wear a mouthguard meant for braces, not a regular one if you have braces. A regular mouthguard isn’t meant for people with braces, drastically increasing teeth, gum, and mouth injury risk.
According to The National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety, a well-fitted mouthguard can reduce the vulnerability of teeth while playing sports. This is an important takeaway to understand how the mouthguard reduces stress and eliminates impact injuries. On the other hand, the dental night guard protects teeth from chipping, cavity, and structural damages.
Given the purpose of both guards, a dental checkup is mandatory before wearing either of them. If you are a sports player and suffer from bruxism, you need to shuffle between both guards. This requires additional attention to reduce traumatic injuries to the teeth.
Evaluate your situation and requirement to understand the right guard for your teeth.
If you have trouble figuring out how a mouthguard should fit, please refer to my guide on the subject.
A sports mouthguard is made of a slightly thicker material to protect teeth during sports injuries. In contrast, a nightguard is made of soft, flexible material to achieve comfort in wearing it throughout the night.
The sports mouthguard adapts the “boil and bite” approach that depends on flexibility and stability.
Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) is the primary material used to make a mouthguard. However, to promote better quality and ease of use, thermopolymers are used to eliminate burns and promote lower molding temperatures. When a custom-made mouthguard is developed, dental alginate material is used to obtain the impression and then decide on the material. Ideally, EVA is a slightly harder material that expands when it is boiled before use.
Several athletic mouthguards are made of materials like laminated thermoplastic, polyurethane, and poly copolymer clear thermoplastic. It is crucial to focus on the thickness as this influences the ability to withstand heavy blows or force to teeth.
Let us look at the material of a dental night guard. The primary material to make a dental night guard is heat-cured acrylic resin. Vinyl splints promote affordability but are ideal for limited use. Further, these are also highly recommended to children. However, to use a night guard in the long run, the hard acrylic (heat-cured) resin is used to cover teeth and improve occlusion.
Due to the growing demand for night guards, acrylic plastic material is widely used to support customization and completely fit. It is less vulnerable to wear and tear. According to Belair Dental Associates, nighttime teeth grinding needs a flexible, comfortable material that can be cleaned and rinsed regularly.
The similarity with both guards lies in the preference for soft stabilization splints over rigid splints to feel more relieved and convenient.
A sports mouthguard costs $15-$25 on average, while a dental night guard can cost $100-$1,000 based on the need and current status.
Sports mouthguards are widely available in the market due to the vast demand from sports players. Several drug stores stock these guards. On the other hand, night guards are sold online for $100, but these guards need customization for long-term use. This customization can incur additional expenses based on the recommendation of the dentist.
A customized sports mouthguard also goes as high as $1,000, but it only depends on the material. The good news about the mouthguard is that some brands offer insurance options.
If you are new to finding night guards for your condition, here is a video by Teeth Talk Girl.
OTC (over-the-counter) guard is more affordable out of the various options listed. If you are suffering from bruxism, visiting a dentist is undoubtedly better than getting operated for a dental crown and root canal, which can cost several grand.
Can I Use A Mouthguard As A Night Guard?
Considering the big differences between mouthguards and nightguards, I have still seen questions about whether you can use a mouthguard as a nightguard.
A mouthguard does not work for symptoms of bruxism. The night guard is designed exclusively to control teeth grinding. Hence, using a mouthguard during the night can potentially affect dental health and cause injuries if you suffer from bruxism.
Under no circumstances should you wear a mouthguard when you fall asleep to substitute a nightguard. Sports professionals typically use it to protect teeth from accidents which is not the purpose of a nightguard. If you suffer from jaw clenching and teeth grinding, you need to wear a nightguard instead of a mouthguard.
Consider night guards as a controller of the repetitive motion of teeth during the night! Nothing more, nothing less! If you suffer from bruxism, be sure to contact your dentist and get a proper nightguard.
Oh, and regardless of whether you wear a mouthguard or nightguard, they should be cleaned properly. Check out my in-depth mouthguard cleaning guide on how to do it.
Should You Wear A Night Guard Every Night?
Assuming that you have severe teeth grinding condition when you sleep, you might think about whether you should wear a night guard every night, even when it could help you?
Severe bruxism conditions demand regular usage of a nightguard to control damages to teeth. Skipping this routine can increase the damage and lower the quality of sleep, and it can also aggravate bruxism. In such conditions, you should wear a nightguard every night.
Based on the level of bruxism, a dentist recommends a period until which you need to wear a nightguard every night. We understand that it is stressful, but most cases require short-term use (unless you suffer from severe bruxism for an extended period). Sleep Association mentions that the average length of use of a nightguard is 4-6 weeks.
Unlike nightguards, do not wear mouthguards during the night unless recommended by your dentist. Often, there is confusion between the two guards affecting the usage.
Mouthguards are used in sports for teeth protection, and they aren’t nearly as expensive as nightguards used because of bruxism (teeth grinding) at night. Also, nightguards can cost anywhere between $100 to $1000, so the differences are vast, even though both serve to protect teeth!