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Mouth or Night Guards
& Bite Splints

Mouth Guards, Night Guards & Bite Splints

While mouth guards, night guards and bite splits are created in a similar fashion, they all exist for specific reasons to protect your teeth and gums. Athletes often wear mouth guards as a preventive action to protect their teeth, whereas night guards and bite splits are used to help with a dental or medical issue.

Differences Between Mouth Guards, Night Guards and Bite Splints

A properly fitted mouth guard is effective at protecting teeth from cracks, chips and even being fully knocked out. Usually used in high-impact sports like hockey, football, wrestling, boxing and basketball, mouth guards can also help protect against concussions.

Night guards protect your teeth at night from any grinding, clenching or biting you probably don’t even realize you’re doing. A night guard keeps your teeth safe from the slow but certain wearing down of teeth caused by grinding.

Bite splits (also known as bite guards, TMJ guards and occlusal splints) are similar to night guards as both protect your teeth during sleep, but a bite splint also guides your jaw movement into its most comfortable, natural position.

Do you Need a Dental Guard or Bite Splint?

We’ll consult with you during your cleaning and exam if we think you may need to consider a dental guard or bite splint. There are many situations that can be addressed with dental guards or bite splints.

  • Temporomandibular (TMD) and Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders, in which your jaw muscles, bones and joints don’t work together as they should.
  • Teeth grinding, usually during your sleep and usually without you even realizing you’re doing it.
  • Clenching, which if untreated can cause TMJ issues.
  • Periodontal disease, which makes you more susceptible to clenching or grinding.
  • Post-orthodontic retention to keep teeth in place after braces are removed and before the teeth have locked into their new positions.
  • Temporary tooth replacements held in place by a dental guard or bite splint.
  • Diagnostic measures when determining whether you may have a TMD.
  • For athletes, especially those who play high-impact sports.

Mouth Guards, Night Guards, and Bite Splints FAQs

When we say dental guards, we mean mouth guards and night guards, both of which fall into the category of dental guards. Bite splints are not dental guards. The three types of dental guards:

  • Custom-fitted: This is the best option as it’s the most comfortable and protects you the best. We fit the dental guard exactly to your mouth.
  • Boil and bite: Generally easy to use, you can find a boil-and-bite dental guard in the sporting goods store. You soften the guard in hot water, then place it in your mouth to mold it to your teeth. They usually adapt to your teeth well, but because these guards are made to fit so many different mouths, they may feel bulky to you.

Stock or pre-made: The benefit to a stock dental guard is it can be worn right away. However, they usually don’t fit well and can make it more difficult to breathe or talk, which can hinder athletes while playing sports.

  • Permissive bite splints prevent the biting surface of the teeth from touching and open up the bite.
  • Non-permissive bite splints move the condyles (parts of the jaw) into proper alignment.
  • Hydrostatic splint: is filled with water, so when you bite down on it, the fluid evenly distributes across your bite, relaxing your muscles
  • Silicone splints are used for treating myofascial pain syndrome. 
  • Stabilization splints are typically used to help patients with TMDs.



Temporomandibular (TMD) disorders occur when the muscles, bones, and joints of the jaw and face don’t move together as they should, oftentimes causing pain and discomfort along with chewing, talking, yawning, or swallowing issues. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders deal specifically with the two joints that connect your lower jaw to your mouth, so TMJ problems fall within TMD ones.


Bite splints are often used to treat TMD and TMJ disorders. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain or tenderness in your face, jaw, neck, shoulders, and/or in and around your ears when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide
  • Headaches, earaches, or tinnitus
  • Clicking, popping, or locking of the jaw
  • Teeth clenching or grinding
  • A change in your bite (how your teeth come together)
  • Limited mobility of your mouth
  • Sensitive teeth without any other underlying dental issue

Technically called bruxism, most patients who receive this diagnosis don’t even realize they grind their teeth. It shows up as teeth and dental restorations slowly and consistently wearing out, or tooth or jaw soreness. A mouth guard or night guard is often enough to remedy the issue, but excessive grinding can lead to TMD disorders, which require a bite splint (as noted above).

Often found in patients who are under a lot of stress, clenching can cause TMJ issues, because it puts added stress on the jaw joints and muscles. A key difference between clenching and grinding is that clenching doesn’t cause the teeth to wear down like grinding does.

Anything you’re going to have protecting your mouth needs to be clean, which also protects your mouth. Whether a mouth guard you wear during your hockey games or a night guard or bite splint you wear at night, make sure to properly maintain it.

  • Rinse your dental guard before and after you wear it.
  • Clean it regularly in cool, soapy water, rinsing thoroughly.
  • Bring your dental guard or bite splint to your bi-annual cleaning appointment.
  • Store the guard in a quality container with vents.
  • Avoid leaving the guard in the sun or hot water.

We’re Ready to Help You

At Cajon Dental, everything we do is centered on you, your health and your experience.