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The term “mouth guard” can be somewhat ambiguous. Generally speaking, a mouth guard is a protective device that covers teeth and gums to prevent injury. However, there are two main categories of mouth guards. Guards used for sports or the application of fluoride or whitening agents are commonly referred to as mouth guards, and guards used for the treatment of bruxism or malocclusion are generally referred to as night guards. We want to give you a general guide to the uses of different types of dental guards.

Mouth Guards

Mouth guards used for sports and the application of dental agents tend to be less fitted than those used for treatment of dental conditions.


Mouth guards are used in many contact sports or sports that have risk of impact without any actual contact. In any sport where there is risk of impact to the face or jaw, a mouth guard should be worn to protect the teeth, lips, and gums. These sports include baseball, boxing, mixed martial arts, wrestling, soccer, football, basketball, figure skating, ice hockey, skiing, and many others. Many schools and sports associations actually require their athletes to use protective mouth guards.


Mouth guards are also used for the application of fluoride, whitening agents, and other topical medications. The agent is placed into the mouth guard, which is then placed over the teeth to apply the medication directly to the teeth.

Night Guards

Night guards used for the treatment of dental conditions like bruxism and malocclusion are generally custom fitted, because they are designed to be used over a long period of time.


Bruxism is the medical term for clenching or grinding your teeth, generally during sleep. Night guards used to treat bruxism aren’t necessarily aimed at trying to cure the condition; they are typically used to prevent further damage to the teeth.


In a dental context, occlusion refers to the contact between teeth, especially the relationship between upper and lower teeth. Malocclusion is more commonly referred to as a bad bite; it is a misalignment of teeth or jaws. A night guard, or occlusion splint, is used to prevent damage to the teeth.
Ask your dental professional if a mouth guard or night guard is right for you.