4+ Differences Between an Athletic Mouthguard and a Night Guard

When searching for mouthguards, you’ll come across two primary categories — athletic (sports) mouthguards and sleep mouthguards. While both offer similar designs and benefits, they are engineered for different purposes and, therefore, are not interchangeable. Choosing the right custom mouthguard for your specific concerns is critical to ensuring that it works as it should.

mouth guard and teeth

In this guide, we’ll go over the main differences between sports mouthguards and their nighttime counterparts to help answer a few common questions.

The Main Difference: Their Purpose

The biggest thing that differentiates one type of mouthguard from the other is its purpose. Here’s a quick rundown of the goal of each type of guard.

A sports mouthguard is designed to protect the teeth and mouth from injuries sustained during athletic endeavors, such as high-impact sports. It is uniquely designed to protect teeth from damage due to contact with other players, equipment and the ground. This type of guard must not inhibit a player’s ability to communicate with teammates or stay hydrated during play and may have special features to boost performance.

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A sleep guard is designed to be worn at night to inhibit teeth grinding, gnashing or clenching due to bruxism. While drinking and talking may not be as important with this type of guard, comfort and durability are especially important because they’re worn for longer periods of time. Wearing a sleep mouthguard at night can help prevent damage to the teeth as well as jaw pain and headaches in the morning.



More Differences to Consider

At first glance, these two mouthguard styles may appear quite similar. Both can be customized to your mouth through boil and bite or 3D scanning, which ensures a personalized feel. But because they are designed for their own unique purposes, they are built differently. Here are a few specific ways their designs differ.

  • Material Both types of guards are designed to protect teeth from some form of impact. At night, it’s the impact and force of your teeth grinding together. During play, it’s the impact of external forces. Night guards are made from dental-grade materials that protect against sustained, evenly distributed force from the top and bottom teeth coming together. Sports guards, such as our PRO Mouthguard, are made of softer, thicker materials to account for harder, less predictable forces, such as an unexpected fall or tackle.
  • Thickness The reality is that nobody will consistently wear a guard that causes discomfort, regardless of whether they’re trying to sleep or compete. Both types need to be made of super-comfortable materials. Still, sleep guards tend to be worn for longer periods of time in one interval, so they need to feel more natural in the mouth. They are often made of thinner materials, while sports mouthguards are made with thicker materials up to 3.5 millimeters thick.
  • Features Many high-quality mouthguards are made with cutting-edge features to help cater to their specific purpose. For example, our high-end sports guards are uniquely designed to improve sports performance with benefits such as increased muscle balance, improved head positioning and body alignment, increased oxygenation and better reaction times.
  • Design We all want to look as spiffy in bed as we do on the field or court, but the truth is that design is slightly less important when snoozing. Our athletic mouthguards come in a wide variety of cool, eye-catching styles and can even be custom-designed to match your personal style or team colors. Dental sleep guards are typically a bit more utilitarian in design. Ours are made of comfortable, clear plastic with no design.

night guard on teeth

Source: Audrius Merfeldas/Shutterstock.com

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So, Are They Interchangeable?

As you can see, though they may look quite similar on the surface, there are many things that set these two guard styles apart from one another. It’s important that you never wear a sports mouthguard to sleep or a sleep mouthguard for sports. Having one for each activity is the best course of action so you get top-tier protection at rest and play.