A dental appliance is a broad term that can cover almost any artificial device used in the mouth to protect teeth (bite guard or mouth guard), repair teeth (crown or orthodontic device such as a retainer) or replace missing teeth (a bridge). We use the term most to describe a device that protects the teeth, such as a sports mouth guard or an occlusal guard to prevent teeth grinding.
An occlusal guard is worn while the patient is sleeping and can be used to treat a variety of conditions including teeth grinding and clenching, temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ), migraines, snoring and sleep apnea. These are available over-the-counter at the drug store, but often times patients find these guards ineffective and bulky. While any night guard takes some getting used to, a custom-fit occlusal guard is less obtrusive and patients seem to have more success with regularly wearing them, offering protection for their teeth and seeing their symptoms subside.
We also recommend our patients use a mouth guard to protect their teeth during sports that carry a significant risk of mouth injury. Sports like basketball, baseball, gymnastics, and volleyball all pose risks to your gum tissues, as well as your teeth. We usually think of football and hockey as the most dangerous to the teeth, but nearly half of sports-related mouth injuries occur in basketball and baseball.
A mouth guard can prevent serious injuries such as concussions, cerebral hemorrhages, incidents of unconsciousness, jaw fractures and neck injuries by helping to avoid situations where the lower jaw gets jammed into the upper jaw. Mouth guards are effective in moving soft issue in the oral cavity away from the teeth, preventing laceration and bruising of the lips and cheeks, especially for those who wear orthodontic appliances.