Mouth guards protect kids' teeth and help with sleeping
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Keeping your teeth healthy involves more than just brushing, flossing, and regular checkups. Sometimes, protecting them with a mouthguard is necessary. This is especially true for kids.

What is a Mouth Guard?

A mouth guard, also referred to as a mouth protector, helps to soften physical impacts on the face. Wearing a mouth guard while playing sports minimizes the risk of breaking or chipping teeth. It also prevents injuries to the lips, tongue, jaw, and face.

What are the Benefits of a Mouth Guard?

Mouth guards perform several functions that are all centered around injury prevention to the mouth.

  • Tooth protection while playing contact sports
  • Protection for braces
  • Prevent tooth damage from bruxism
  • Avert soft tissue injuries to the lips, tongue, and inner cheeks

Mouth Guard Types

When looking for tooth protection, there are three mouthguard types to choose from:

Custom Made

These are made specifically for you by a dentist. They can be expensive since they conform to your exact mouth.

Boil and Bite

These fit well, too, as they are first boiled in water to soften them. After that, you insert it into your mouth and bite so the mouth guard captures your teeth alignment. You can wear them once they harden and dry.

Stock Brands

These come pre-formed and ready to use. They tend not to fit as well as the other types. Stock mouth guards also can make it challenging to talk and breathe.

Graphic of a girl smiling

Can a Child Wear a Mouth Guard?

There are plenty of reasons for a child to wear a mouth guard. Your dentist might recommend a children's mouth guard for grinding teeth as a way of dealing with bruxism in kids.

It is also a good idea to get in the habit of using youth mouthguards for kids who play impact sports. If your kid does wear a mouth guard, make sure it is specifically for a child as opposed to an adult so that it fits correctly.

Mouth Guards & Sports

Whether or not your child needs a mouthguard depends on the type of sport they play. Certain sports, like football, hockey, and lacrosse, require a mouthguard. Even if the rules don’t require a mouthguard, it certainly can’t hurt for your child to wear one. Here are some good rules of thumb for when to wear a mouthguard while playing sports:

  • Ball and stick sports: baseball, softball
  • Hand-to-hand sports: boxing and martial arts
  • Field sports: rugby and soccer
  • Competitive riding: cycling, horseback riding, and skateboarding
  • Outdoor activities: biking, rollerblading, skiing, and waterskiing

If the sport your child plays isn’t listed above, consider whether there is a high probability of a head or facial impact. If so, it is probably advisable to outfit your child with a mouthguard.

Mouth Guards & Sleeping

Sleep disorders prevent children and adults from getting the necessary amount of sleep required by their bodies. In some cases, such as with sleep apnea, a mouth guard for sleeping can help.

Wearing a sleep apnea mouth guard on the lower arch repositions the tongue and jaw to keep the airway open. A mouth guard can help with sleep apnea, snoring, and nighttime bruxism.

Why Do Kids Grind Their Teeth?

Teeth grinding in children and adults is referred to as bruxism. It affects approximately 30 to 40 million people in the United States.

Bruxism can happen at different times of the day. Teeth grinding only during sleep is known as nocturnal bruxism. Teeth grinding can also occur during daytime hours.

Bruxism in children has multiple causes:

  • Misaligned or overcrowded teeth can interfere with upper and lower teeth
  • Internal causes such as earache, allergies, dehydration, sleep disorders, and nutritional deficiencies
  • Stress-inducing life situations such as school troubles, parents divorcing, changes to their environment, and the death of a loved one

Up to 35% of kids grind or clench their teeth, with the highest occurrence being in those under age five. Most children outgrow it without any permanent tooth damage, and they aren’t even aware they are doing it. More than half of kids grinding teeth between the ages of 3 to 10 will naturally stop on their own by the time they turn 13.

Even babies can suffer from bruxism. The reason babies grind their teeth stems from teething. It is a response mechanism generated by the pain from teething.

Discuss the issue with your dentist if you think your child grinding teeth in sleep is a problem.

A boil and bite mouth guard forms to protect your teeth

How Often Should Your Child Wear a Mouth Guard?

As noted, it is always a good idea for a child to wear a mouthguard when playing contact sports. Whether a kid should wear a mouth guard for bruxism or some other reason is best determined by a dentist. The dentist can also develop a plan for when and how often to wear the mouth guard.

How to Choose a Mouth Guard for Kids

Choosing a mouthguard for your child might seem like it can be a complicated process. Each mouth is different, so follow these tips to determine the correct children's mouth guard.

Safe Substances

The mouthguard should be made from materials that are safe. Be sure to purchase mouthguards made by trusted companies and sold by reputable dealers.

Comfort Level

A mouthguard should fit comfortably regardless of who wears it. They aren’t one-size-fits-all, so make sure you specifically purchase a kid's mouthguard. Adult mouthguards are too large for a child’s mouth and will cause discomfort.

Cleanliness

Keeping a sports mouth guard or a children’s night guard clean is critically important. Humidity in the mouth makes it a prime environment for bacteria to develop. The mouth guard you select should be easy to clean to avoid any potential mouth health issues.

Prevent Tears

You’ll want to select a mouthguard that is tear resistant. This is especially true if your child uses the mouth guard for sports. Regularly inspect the mouth guard for signs of wear and tear. Replace it if need be.

Easy Speaking

The mouth guard shouldn’t inhibit your child’s speech. This is an important trait for athletic mouthguards since teammates need to communicate during games. Have your child try it out before using it. If they can’t speak clearly, opt for another model.

Easy Breathing

Just like a mouth guard shouldn’t hinder the ability to speak, it also shouldn’t make breathing difficult either. If it is used for sports, such as a football mouth guard, the player can’t be gasping for air.

Find a Dentist Near Me

Consult your dentist to discuss any questions about the best mouthguards for kids. You can also ask about kids and bruxism. Or, check out The Smile Generation to find a dentist near you for all your oral health needs. You can read patient reviews, peruse staff bios, and schedule an appointment online with a click of your mouse.

Find a local trusted dentist

Sources:

Mouthguards, Mouth Healthy, https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/m/mouthguards

Majeau, Corey, Best Mouthguard for Kids, The Sleep Judge, July 5, 2022, https://www.thesleepjudge.com/roundup/best-mouthguard-for-kids/

Nighttime Teeth-Grinding in Children (Bruxism), Frisco Kid’s Dentistry, https://friscokidsdds.com/nighttime-teeth-grinding-in-children-bruxism/

A Parent’s Guide to Mouth Guards for Child Athletes, Milner Dentistry, http://milnerdentistry.com/patient-information/blog/more-blogs/guide-to-mouth-guards-for-child-athletes/

Mouthguards: Everything You Need to Know, Colgate, https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/selecting-dental-products/mouth-guards-everything-you-need-to-know#

Clenching Teeth at Night, Colgate, https://www.colgate.com/en-my/oral-health/bruxism/clenching-teeth-at-night-0113

Bruxism (Teeth Grinding), Colgate, https://www.colgate.com/en-my/oral-health/bruxism/bruxism-teeth-grinding

Bruxism: Signs and Symptoms, Colgate, https://www.colgate.com/en-my/oral-health/bruxism/bruxism-signs-and-symptoms

Marcin, Ashley, Causes of and Natural Remedies for Baby Teeth Grinding, Healthline, January 19, 2016, https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/baby-teeth-grinding

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