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5 Things to Know About Kids' Mouth Guards

 As a parent, the list of things you need for your kids is ever-changing but never-ending. Diapers, wipes, onesies, toys, school supplies, and … kids’ mouth guards for sports or night guards for protection?

Yes, many little ones need an oral appliance as they’re growing. Even babies occasionally have to use a night guard if they could damage their developing teeth due to grinding or clenching.

So why specifically may your child need a dentistry mouthpiece? A night guard protects their lips, tongue, and face from the dangers of an impact. It keeps their teeth and jaw safe from the damage of grinding.

Children who play sports are the most common recipients of mouth guards. They’re effective at preventing teeth from getting chipped, broken, or knocked out entirely (which we like, as parents!). 

But as you may guess, there are key differences between children and adult oral appliances. 

Here are five things to know about kids’ night guards.

1. There Are Mouth Guards for Different Purposes

In general, as you start to look into mouth guards, you’ll see two main categories. 

Mouth Guards for Trauma Avoidance

First, there are bite mouth guards that protect growing teeth from trauma, such as sports mouth guards. Children who play contact sports, like football, lacrosse, and martial arts, use them.

Sports guards aren’t custom-fit, but they can reduce the damage of an impact to the head. Using a youth mouth guard when playing rough minimizes the chance of tooth and jaw damage or concussion.

The other type is specifically for little ones who have bruxism, also known as teeth grinding.

Night Guards for Bruxism

Lots of people are surprised to know that kids can have bruxism, too.

If you’re like most of us, you went years and years without knowing teeth grinding was a thing. Then, out of nowhere, either you or your child started developing symptoms, and a dentist gave a diagnosis of bruxism.

We know what you’re thinking: 

How can my child already be grinding their teeth when they’re not even grown in yet? 

What can I do to help them?

Although it’s normal that you’re worried, childhood bruxism is actually quite common. In fact, studies show that nearly 50% of kids have bruxism at some point in their young lives. It typically begins after most of their deciduous (or baby) teeth have come in.

Why Kids Grind Their Teeth

The grinding and clenching behavior often stems from stress and nervousness. Although the average kid doesn’t have pressure like we do as adults, they have their versions. 

Their bodies are under stress as they grow, and their developing minds go a million miles an hour with questions and thoughts.

Chances are, your child has no idea they’re doing it. It’s involuntary, and they can’t stop it on their own.

Is Bruxism Scary?

While bruxism itself isn’t dangerous, the results can be painful. Your child is consistently grinding down their teeth enamel or clenching their jaw. Over time, the problems extend into the neck and shoulder muscles, causing headaches and pain.

How to stop the behavior is unique to each child and depends on the reason they’re grinding. 

For instance, if a little one has seen a traumatic event, they could benefit from talking to a counselor. Some counseling specialists teach young children strategies to learn how to process their emotions.

As you’re working with the dentist or doctor to figure out the cause of their grinding, take steps to limit the damage. The side effects of bruxism often become painful, but you can help by getting your child a mouth guard.

The guards aren’t interchangeable, so be careful when you shop! You only want the best for your child’s teeth. The right one makes a huge difference in a growing human.

Using a professional dental lab, like JS Dental Lab, lets you talk to someone in real-time to ensure you’re getting the right appliance for your child.

2. You’ll See Three Types of Mouth Guards

kids who play sports need mouth guards

Once you narrow down the kind of appliance that will work for your child, you still have some options to consider.

There are three general types of mouth guards, and each has its pros and cons.

Pre-Made

Ready-to-wear mouth protectors are available in most pharmacies and sporting goods stores. Before your child’s next field hockey game, it’s a beneficial idea to buy one for them.

These typically comprise rubber or polyvinyl materials. They’re bulky and can make it hard for your child to talk or breathe easily until they adjust to them.

Athletic mouth guards are for sports and active use only. They’re not something they should wear unless they’re engaged in a potentially dangerous activity.

“Boil-and-Bite”

Possibly the most common mouth guard, you can easily pick up “boil and bite” guards at most pharmacies. 

To use them, you put  the guard in boiling water. Once it’s ready, you put it in your mouth and use your fingers, lips, and teeth to shape and contour it as best as possible.

These stock night guards are one-size-fits-most, but as you know, your child is unique, and so is their mouth. 

It’s also worth noting that unlike custom night guards by a lab like JS Dental Lab, stock night  guards may not have FDA-approved materials, and may actually contain BPA and other chemicals.

Custom-Fitted Mouth Guard

The process to make a custom-fit night guard is more precise than the boil-and-bite varieties. Your dentist will make an impression of your mouth, then use high-quality machinery to use the mold and create your guard.

This method offers you a great fit, so you get the most protection possible, comfortably. It’s more expensive than the drugstore guard, which keeps a lot of people from using one.

The good news is that there’s an in-between option! 

You get affordable, quality, custom-designed night guards when you order with JS Dental Lab. Check out our range of night guards here.

3. Replacing Guards

When you get braces, you may be able to use the same retainer forever if you keep it clean.

With mouth guards and night guards, it doesn’t work that way. You need to replace a guard every six months to one year, depending on the product. 

And you may need to replace guards for children more frequently because their teeth and mouth are still developing.

Signs It’s Time to Update Your Child’s Mouth Guard

Whether it’s a sports guard or a night guard, there are a few telltale signs that clearly say it’s time to get a new appliance.

The Guard Isn’t in Good Shape

The mouth guard or night guard is getting thin or looks deformed. This happens with time or when the material gets too hot and warps. 

Storing a kid's guard in extreme temperatures or soaking it in hot water will break down the material. Once it’s deformed, it loses much of its protective abilities.

The Wearer’s Bite is Different

Maybe your child has had some orthodontic or dental work that shifted their teeth. They could have had dental injuries when they weren't wearing their appliance. 

These issues are pretty common in growing mouths. If anything has changed their bite, it’s time for a new guard.

It’s Been a While Since They Got It

It’s been at least six months since your kid’s last guard. Their mouth is continually growing, so they’ll need a custom night guard or sports guard that fits properly. 

Again, this should be every six months to a year, depending on their age.

It’s Out of Date

Some appliances come with a warranty. If the warranty period ends, it will still technically work

However, if you bought a sports mouth guard, it may not protect your child’s teeth from damage after the warranty expires. A new guard is more durable and protects your pocket, too.

4. Your Child’s Guard Can Be a Money-Saver

Yes, there’s the initial out-of-pocket expense. However, getting a guard for your child now can save you substantially later in the long run.

Kids Can Be Expensive, But Their Dental Work Doesn’t Have to Be!

From birth to college, raising a child can cost over $200,000. And that’s without emergencies and extra dental or health conditions to pay for!

Getting a mouth guard as a preventive measure helps cushion this cost. The substantial savings show up in things like:

Fewer Emergency Dental Visits with Sports Guards

A mouth guard can ensure reduced emergency dental costs by preventing impact damage during contact sports. 

That blow to the jaw might be painful, but it doesn’t have to mean knocked-out front teeth and a beeline to the emergency dentist!

Night Guards Prevent Costly Grinding and Clenching Repair Work  

Lowered cost of wear and tear from teeth grinding. Over time, the enamel is damaged, resulting in cavities and tooth loss.

There’s also likely less need for out-of-pocket treatment because of physical damage caused by bruxism. With jaw clenching comes tight neck and shoulder muscles and lots of associated discomfort.

Fewer Orthodontic Adjustments

If your child has already had braces, and then they begin grinding, the orthodontist will likely recommend a night guard. It will help keep the teeth from shifting out of their new, improved placement.

A simple little oral appliance is all it takes to prevent serious hits to your bank account! 

5. How to Tell if Your Child Needs a Mouth Guard

how to tell if your kid needs a night guard

Having a child who plays contact sports is an easy way to know if you need a mouth guard for them. But deciding if they may have bruxism is a little harder to pinpoint.

You should always consult your child’s dentist before you choose to buy a night guard. Getting some information before your appointment will help you know what questions to ask.

Symptoms of Chronic Teeth Grinding

A pediatric dentist will ask why you think your child may have bruxism. They’ll be looking for answers that match up with the typical symptoms of teeth grinding.

Every child will have their own unique symptoms. 

But you can be pretty confident of your preliminary diagnosis if they have a few of these signs:

  • Sore jaw
  • Dull headaches upon waking
  • Pain their teeth with no dental cause (cavities, a previous root canal, fillings, etc.)
  • Loose permanent teeth
  • Fractures in the teeth (these could be barely-visible hairline cracks) 

As with any concerns in your child’s oral health, consult their dentist first. If they recommend a night guard, you can skip the hefty price tag of going through them. Getting a professional appliance from JS Dental Lab is a money saving alternative.

Possible Causes of Grinding

As we mentioned earlier, stress and anxiety are usually to blame when a child starts grinding their teeth. These aren’t the only causes, though.

The dentist will also be listening for changes in your child’s typical routine. Symptoms of bruxism, combined with a possible reason, will help them pinpoint the diagnosis.

Let the dentist know if your little one has complained of any mouth irritation or earaches, even if the problem seems to have gone away. 

Allergies are another frequent grinding starter, as are misaligned teeth. 

Hyperactive kids can end up with bruxism, too. They may be sleeping, but their bodies are still moving.

In general, you should report anything that’s slightly out of the norm for your child to the dentist. They’ll use all the info you give them to develop a plan of treatment, whether it’s dental or another route.

Conclusion

Investing in a dental mouth guard for your child is a brilliant idea if they’re grinding, clenching, or playing contact sports like softball. You want to ensure the guard you get will do the job, though.

No matter what you’re looking for, working with a professional who knows what they’re doing is the best next step. You can get a cheap mouth guard on Amazon. However, the best option is to combine affordability with high quality. 

For that incredible combination in a night guard, JS Dental Lab is your answer!

JS Dental Lab has friendly experts who will walk you through your options and help you make the best choice for your child’s custom mouth guard needs. Contact us today to learn how we can help you start the process.