Mouth guards have many purposes, and can help treat conditions from teeth grinding to sleep apnea. They also protect your mouth from sports-related injury. Mouth guards may be store-bought or custom-made by a dentist.
Mouth guards are dental appliances that cover your teeth. Dentists recommend them for a number of reasons, and there are many different types. Children and adults alike can benefit from mouth guards.
Most mouth guards fit over your upper teeth. In some instances, your dentist may recommend a mouth guard for your lower teeth, as well.
Dentists recommend mouth guards for many different reasons. You might need one if you:
There are three main types of mouth guards. We can categorize them according to purpose:
In addition, mouth guards may be store-bought or custom-made:
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
If you need a custom mouth guard, a dentist will take dental impressions. (They’ll use dental putty or a digital handheld wand for this step.) Next, they’ll send your impressions to a dental lab, where a technician will fabricate a mouth guard that fits the anatomy of your teeth. In some cases, this process can take up to two weeks.
It depends on why you need a mouth guard. If you need one to protect your teeth during contact sports, then you should wear it during all practices and games. However, if you need a mouth guard to treat teeth grinding, snoring or sleep apnea, you’ll likely need to wear it every night while you sleep. Ask your healthcare provider if you’re unsure about how often you should wear your mouth guard.
Wearing a mouth guard during contact sports and athletic activities can help you avoid:
Wearing a mouth guard while you sleep can help reduce your risk for:
It can take some time to get used to your mouth guard. If you purchase one that doesn’t fit quite right, it can cause soreness in your teeth, gums or jaw.
Generally, custom-made mouth guards are more comfortable than store-bought ones. No matter what type of mouth guard you have, your dentist can check it and make any necessary adjustments.
Depending on how frequently you wear your appliance, a custom-made mouth guard can last several years with proper care. However, some people may find they need a mouth guard replaced more often than that. Be sure to bring your mouth guard with you to dental checkups so your dentist can inspect it for cracks or other signs of wear.
Store-bought mouth guards aren’t as durable. You may need to replace them a few times a year. Children and teens may need to replace mouth guards more often as their teeth and mouth grow.
Mouth guards pick up bacteria from your mouth. Be sure to clean your teeth thoroughly before putting a mouth guard in. Here are some tips for how to clean your mouth guard:
If you play contact sports, ask your dentist for mouth guard recommendations. You should also reach out to your healthcare provider if you have:
Yes. In addition to protecting your teeth, a mouth guard can protect braces, dental implants and other dental restorations (like crowns and bridges) from damage. Custom-fitted mouth guards work best. They fit the unique shape of braces or implants.
Some dental health insurers cover part or all of the cost for custom-fitted mouth guards. Health insurance policies vary, so you should check with your provider. You can also see if your dental office has a payment plan. You can use health savings account funds to pay for custom-fitted and store-bought mouth guards.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Mouth guards protect your teeth from injury when you play sports, bike or do other on-the-move activities. You can buy mouth guards at stores or get a custom-fitted mouth guard from a dentist. Your dentist may recommend wearing a mouth guard while you sleep to stop you from grinding your teeth or improve sleep apnea symptoms. There are different types of mouth guards. Your dentist can suggest the best one for you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/10/2023.
Learn more about our editorial process.