Little skateboarder portrait using a mouth guard

What’s the Difference Between Mouthguards and Night Guards?

Mouthguards and night guards are vital tools for safeguarding your dental health. These two devices, although seemingly similar, serve distinct purposes and possess unique characteristics.

Whether you’re contemplating buying a mouthguard for your child’s sports activities or have received a recommendation from your dentist for a night guard, it is important to understand the differences between these two dental guards and how they contribute to maintaining optimal oral health.

Difference between a mouthguard and a night guard?

A mouthguard is a dental appliance that’s used to protect your teeth during physical activities such as contact sports.

Mouthguards are designed to shield your teeth and gums from the impact that can result from these types of activities, helping to prevent damage and injury.

A night guard is a dental device designed to be worn overnight. Night guards focus specifically on protecting your teeth against the damaging effects of a condition called bruxism, which is characterised by grinding or clenching your teeth and commonly co-occurs with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.

As well as preventing teeth grinding and clenching, night guards are also used to provide relief from the pain and discomfort associated with bruxism.

The Oral Health Benefits of Mouthguards vs. Night Guards

Mouth guards and your oral health

  • Protection during physical activities: The main purpose of a mouthguard is to protect the teeth, gums and jaws during physical activities such as contact sports. These can include sports such as football, hockey and boxing. Mouthguards act as a cushion to absorb the impact of blows or hits to the face, helping to prevent dental injuries such as chipped or knocked-out teeth.
  • Prevention of soft tissue injuries: As well as protecting the teeth from damage, mouthguards also reduce the risk of injury to the soft tissues of the mouth, such as the lips, cheeks and tongue. By providing a barrier, mouthguards minimise the chance of cuts and bruises in these areas.

The role of night guards in oral health

  • Protection against bruxism: Night guards are most commonly used to protect against the damaging effects of bruxism. By creating a physical barrier between the upper and lower teeth, night guards (sometimes called ‘sleeping guards’) reduce the damage caused by these grinding and clenching movements.
  • Bruxism pain and symptom relief: As well as providing protection for teeth, night guards are also used to relieve the symptoms of bruxism. These symptoms can include jaw pain, muscle tension, and headaches. By reducing the pressure on the teeth and jaws, night guards can help alleviate pain and discomfort.
  • Preservation of tooth structure: By preventing damage such as fractures, enamel erosion and excessive wear and tear caused by bruxism, night guards play an important role in preserving the structure of teeth, helping to maintain their integrity and longevity.

Are Custom Mouth Guards Better Than Generic Mouthguards?

When considering the choice of a mouthguard, you may be weighing the options between a custom device provided by your dentist or a generic mouthguard available over the counter. While both types of mouthguards are intended to safeguard your teeth and oral well-being, there are notable distinctions between the two.

Comfort and Fit: Custom mouthguards are meticulously crafted to your unique dental structure, utilising precise 3D impressions of your mouth. Consequently, they offer an elevated level of comfort and an impeccable fit. In contrast, generic mouthguards may lack the same level of comfort and often provide a less-than-optimal fit.

Protection: Custom mouthguards, primarily owing to their superior fit, tend to deliver enhanced protection and shock absorption when compared to generic alternatives. Their ability to evenly distribute the force of impact frequently makes them more effective in reducing the risk of dental and jaw injuries.

Durability: Custom mouthguards are typically more resilient due to their personalised design, rendering them less prone to quick wear and tear. Conversely, generic mouthguards may necessitate more frequent replacement.

Cost: It’s important to note that custom mouthguards typically come at a higher price point than their generic counterparts. This cost differential is a reflection of the specialised process involved in crafting a custom-fitted device.

Both mouthguards and night guards play pivotal roles in safeguarding your oral health, although they serve distinct purposes. Mouthguards are essential for shielding against physical injuries, while night guards are instrumental in mitigating the damage caused by teeth grinding and clenching. Your choice should be guided by your specific needs and preferences, as well as the level of protection you seek for your oral health.

If you think you may need a mouthguard or a night guard, make an appointment with your dentist to discuss the best solution for you.


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