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What Is a Gum Shield? | Sentinel Mouth Guards

The Gum Shield and its Importance

sentinel athletic mouth guard gum shield
Sentinel Athletic Mouth Guard in dark blue – $98.00 Custom Fit Gum Shield

Sometimes the English language is just downright confusing. Must we have 10 variations of the same word? Is there a difference between “mouth guard” and “gum shield”?

A gum shield is a protective appliance or device that is used to cover the teeth and gums. We hear dentists and hygienists stress the importance of maintaining our teeth and gums in our daily activities to ensure we remain fit to carry them out efficiently.

It’s called a gum shield because it shields the gums, lips, and teeth from the negative effects of teeth grinding or jaw clenching. Gum shields also protect from injury in case of impact (if used in contact sports like wrestling, boxing, baseball, martial arts, gymnastics, softball, handball, hockey, skating, basketball, and football).

what is a gum shield
This device is fixed on the teeth of either the upper or lower jaw, or both. The gum shield, aka mouthguard, pads between the lower and upper teeth. This can also help reduce the risk of concussion, which may arise when the bottom jaw slams into the upper one, rattling the skull and causing a shock.

For these reasons, it’s always recommended that one should wear a properly fitted gum shield –and make sure that it extends to the molars, as it’s even more helpful this way.

It helps prevent tooth loss and/or lip biting too. Do not cut the ends of your mouthguard just to make it look like you have one in during games. If you find gum shields to be very uncomfortable, simply get a custom-made guard fitted to your dental anatomy and request for a thinner version. You can make these specific requests by ordering here. Make sure you type any details about your order into the comments section during checkout.

confusing english language

As mentioned above, we “the people”, like to make our own language confusing. As a result, the mouthguard is also known by other names; gum guard, gum shield, mouth piece, bite splint, bite plane, mouth protector, night guard, occlusion splint, teeth guard, dental guard, and teeth protector. Some of the names are more commonly used in a medical setting (such as occlusal splint and bite splint).

Mouth guards are worn to protect the teeth and the gums because of susceptible injury from teeth grinding and impact during sports. There exist some differences between gum shields for sports and bite splints for teeth grinding.

There are also several types of gum shields:

1. Boil & bite mouth protectors. These are made from thermoplastic material. One would first place them in hot water to soften them, then submerge them into their teeth, and by use of their finger and tongue, pressure the right-shaped guard around the teeth. These types can be purchased in many sporting good stores.

2. Stock mouth protectors. These are also sold at many sport good stores, but have already undergone preliminary shaping. They’re generally the least expensive type. They come ready-to-wear with no ability to conform to your teeth. Consumers usually complain a lot about this type of mouth guard. The most common complaints are: “too bulky”, “makes talking and breathing a challenge”, and “little can be done to adjust their fit”.
Their use is therefore not recommended by most dentists.

3. Custom-fitted mouth protectors. This type is designed according to an individual based on dentist’s instructions. The dentist first makes an impression of one’s teeth, then a mouth guard is designed according to the impression, using special materials.

This process is time consuming – with more is involved, making the procedure more expensive than any other mouth guard types. But, it provides the most protection and best comfort.

It’s the best mouth guard solution for teeth grinding as the durability is beyond comparable. There are two different machines used to create custom-fitted mouth protectors:
1) Vacuum form, custom-made gum shields. The use of this machine produces single layer mouth protectors. They offer more protection than the boil & bite type.
2) Pressure laminated, Custom-made mouth guards. This type of machine produces a multi-layer material for varying thicknesses and a tighter fit.

Here is more on the different types of sports mouthguards, and here’s another excellent article that explains the different types of night guards for teeth grinding.

Generally, gum shields cover ones upper teeth only, but most dentists will make them for the lower teeth as well.
A properly trained dentist can suggest the best mouth guard for you to to use.

An effective mouth guard should be long-lasting, easy to clean, comfortable, tear-resistant and should not interfere with one’s breathing or speech.

If you grind your teeth at night, a special gum shield type of dental appliance known as the nocturnal bite plate or bite splint may be designed for you to prevent tooth damage.

how long do dental night guards last?

What Is The Difference Between Bruxism and TMJ?

Disorders of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can have many names. These include TMJ syndrome, TMJ dysfunction, and TMJ disorder, among others. Throughout this article, we’ll use these terms interchangeably.

Regardless of the names, these conditions are often exacerbated by persistent teeth-grinding (bruxism). Before we talk more about TMJ problems, let’s review some background information about bruxism.

Definition | What is bruxism?

Bruxism is the involuntary or habitual grinding or clenching of the teeth. “Sleep bruxism” (Bruxism that occurs during sleep) is a more pernicious variety. This is because damage from sleep bruxism is more challenging to detect, cure, and repair.

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Symptomatology | How do I know if I have bruxism?

This is an important question. It’s usually not difficult to determine if you suffer from teeth grinding. You may be conscious of grinding your teeth while it’s happening. If not (for example, if you suffer from sleep bruxism) then you may only become aware of the habit by its symptoms.

These include:

  • Headaches
  • Jaw pain
  • Mouth pain
  • Loose teeth
  • Teeth sensitivity

Even seemingly-unrelated conditions like sinus inflammation can be an indirect result of “trigger point” compression of facial nerves effected by bruxism.

Only a healthcare professional can diagnose a medical condition, so for safe measure, it is recommended that you seek the input of a dentist or other oral health diagnostician.

Epidemiology | How common is bruxism?

Bruxism is not universal, but it is not uncommon. Epidemiological data shows that 1 in 10 people suffer from bruxism in their lives.

Pathophysiology | What is the physiological mechanism of bruxism?

Specialists have not yet agreed upon the root cause of bruxism, nor is it certain that one primary trigger exists at all – but there are several distinct factors associated with bruxism.

Individuals exposed to these risk factors are more likely to develop the condition. Such risk factors include stress, diet, anatomy, and pharmacology.


A person’s stress level or stress response has wide-ranging health impacts. Some of these impacts can have serious consequences. Vascular and psychiatric diseases are some of the more common outcomes.

Typical stressors include interpersonal relationships, work, finances, and general health, among others.


Nutritional deficiencies can negatively impact every bodily system, from digestion to circulation.

When the body is strained by inadequate nourishment, a cascade of destructive, self-reinforcing reactions can occur. For example, a diet low in potassium can lead to muscle cramping, which can lead to pain, which can in turn lead to emotional tension.

Emotional tension then leads to musculoskeletal tension, which further exacerbates the initial pain. If not treated, this cycle may continue until the patient is partially or completely incapacitated.

diet can affect teeth grinding

Dental Anatomy

Poor structural alignment of the teeth and jaws can result in an uneven bite. This means that the surface of the teeth come together in ways that are not conducive to efficient chewing.

Such a condition can sometimes require increased effort and force during routine behaviors such as eating and chewing gum. When that happens, the afflicted individual is likely to experience the pain, discomfort, and dental damage associated with TMJ dysfunction and/or bruxism.


Just as poor nutrition can lead to myriad physiological consequences, so, too, can medicine, narcotics, and any other psycho-biological agents. In particular, substances that increase activation of the sympathetic nervous system should be carefully moderated.

This sub-component of the larger nervous system is particularly sensitive to over-stimulation by way of coffee, sugar, tobacco, certain illicit substances (“uppers”), and some prescription medications.

Complications | Is bruxism serious?

As you may expect, bruxism can be quite serious if not treated with the right blend of interventional approaches.

For people who grind their teeth only occasionally, it is unlikely that significant damage or discomfort will occur. But for those who suffer from chronic or recurrent bruxism, it is vital that steps are taken to halt and counteract the possible complications.

Methods to treat bruxism and control its damage generally include deliberate behavior modification (to reduce exposure to risk-factors) and custom-fit dental night guards meant to provide a protective barrier to the teeth, jaws, and the nearby structures – such as the tongue.

Without such measures in place, it is likely that a long-term “bruxer” will eventually develop a number of unpleasant symptoms.

These symptoms can include wearing of the teeth, cracking of the teeth (craze lines), flattening of the teeth, headaches, ear pain, sleep disturbances, insomnia, painful aggravation of the facial nerves (most notably trigeminal neuralgia), tooth decay, inflamed and receding gums, and a cluster of troubling symptoms associated with the temporomandibular joint (where the jaw meets the skull).

Many problems with this joint are grouped together and labeled as “TMJ syndrome”, “TMJ dysfunction”, “TMJ disorder”, etc. Much like bruxism, these conditions are not completely understood and documented, but they are strikingly common nonetheless.

Bruxism vs TMJ Dysfunction

 BruxismTMJ Dysfunction
Is it a behavior?YesNo
Is it one distinct condition?YesNo
Is it caused by another condition?SometimesYes
Can it be treated with a night guard?YesYes

This table summarized some of the conventional wisdom about teeth-grinding and TMJ dysfunction.

TMJ Syndrome

  • Characteristics include clicking and popping sounds in the jaw
  • It’s associated with pain or discomfort in the juncture between the jaw and skull
  • It’s usually felt and heard inside or in front of the ear
  • It can be caused or exacerbated by bruxism

Ultrasound Therapy may be used to treat TMJ Syndrome

More About TMJ Syndromes

If you’ve spent a little time researching TMJ disorders, you may have noticed convoluted and even conflicting information. That’s because, as is the case with bruxism, TMJ disorders can present in a variety of ways.

In addition, medical specialists, researchers, and patients are still discovering, correlating, and documenting the connections between the multitude of possible manifestations.

Given this ever-increasing confluence of information, the traditional, singular epithet “TMJ syndrome” has been increasingly deprecated and superseded by the more general, plural form: “TMJ syndromes”, along with other umbrella terms, most notably “TMJ dysfunctions” and “TMJ disorders”.

These syndromes are generally recognized by a characteristic of clicking or popping sounds and an associated pain or discomfort in the juncture between the jaw and skull (again, the temporomandibular joint, so-named for its anatomical role as the union of the skull’s temporal bone with the attached mandible bone, better known as the jaw).

This unpleasant clicking is usually felt and heard inside or in front of the ear, and is thought to be the result of dislocation, subluxation, inflammation, or other impairment of the cartilage disk that serves as a buffer between the two bones.

This impairment is frequently caused by… You guessed it – bruxism.

Treatment and Prevention | What can I do about my bruxism?

We’ll post another article soon focusing on treatment and prevention options. Whichever approaches you consider, be sure to consult a dental or orthodontic specialist. You may also want to speak with an orthopod. (That’s a medical doctor specializing in holistic care and treatment of the musculoskeletal system.)

You should strongly consider wearing a night guard (a mouth guard worn at night). These can be purchased online at much lower costs than you would pay a dentist, but with the same quality and customization options.

If you do invest in a night guard, be sure that it is custom-molded to fit your unique dental anatomy.

Now, it should be noted that the mouth guards used for treating alignment disorders (a symptom of TMJ disorders) function differently than a typical night guard. This means that if your dental health provider has diagnosed you with an alignment issue, then a standard custom night guard is not recommended.

Night guards for alignment issues are always made of rigid acrylic material and sometimes incorporate metal clasps to help raise the bite and reposition the jaw.

Because an alignment splint is fairly involved, the dentist may need to make multiple adjustments in order to achieve optimal position and results.

Again, for patients suffering from alignment issues, we do NOT recommend ordering a night guard bought online.

You should always consult a licensed specialist before using any medical device or treatment.

Bruxism, teeth-grinding, and TMJ disorders can be burdensome and destructive. But with the information in this article, we hope that you’re better-prepared to face any upcoming challenges.

Bruxism vs TMJ
teeth sore when I wake up

My Teeth Are Sore When I Wake Up. Why?

“Why is it that my teeth are sore when I wake up in the morning?”

Waking up with sore teeth is common amongst many people.

Often times, when a person goes to sleep, their teeth feel healthy and fine but when they wake up the teeth will feel sore.

This may or may not be accompanied by a headache and/or jaw pain and can cause a lot of discomfort and inconveniences.

A person who wakes with complaints of ‘my teeth are sore’ might be unable to eat breakfast or brush teeth comfortably. It’s not the best way for one to start their day and can actually be doing real damage to the teeth if you are suffering from a disorder such as Bruxism (constant nighttime teeth grinding) or TMJ. So lets take a look at some top reasons why a person might wake up with sore teeth and also the solutions to this issue.

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1. Teeth Grinding Or Jaw Clenching at Night

It is estimated that most of us grind or clench our teeth at some point in our lives.

The most common cause of sore teeth when waking up is the grinding and clenching of teeth while asleep.

The majority of people who experience this issue usually clench and/or grind their teeth while asleep.

In fact, 1 in 10 people grind or clench their teeth at night.

This might be caused by many things including stress, dreaming and irregular temperatures at night amongst other reasons. A person who clenches and grinds his or her teeth at night will not have control of this situation, since it is not possible to stop clenching and grinding of teeth while asleep.

Therefore, if such a person does not find the right solution, the problem will persist and the person will be waking up with complaints of ‘my teeth are sore’ and slowly making the teeth flatter and more susceptible to cracks & breakage.. This makes it paramount to find a permanent and effective solution to solve this problem.

Don’t know if you’re grinding your teeth? The most convenient and effective solution to waking up with sore teeth because of grinding and clenching of the teeth at night is the use of a dental night guard. These guards are effective because they prevent the teeth from coming into contact at night, and even if the person wearing the night guard clenches or grinds the teeth, there will be no negative effect.

Custom made night guards (based on a dental impression of your teeth) are far superior to store bought dental night guards. Custom guards are also easy to put on and remove and they can be worn by almost anyone. Finding the right night guard for you can sometimes be tricky. A custom made dental night guard (made from a dental impression of your teeth) is almost universally recommended by dentists and researchers alike over the stock, store bought types. Skip dental office prices and get your night guard to stop your sore teeth directly from the lab!

2. Food Stuck In Your Teeth

Another common cause of teeth soreness while waking up is eating foods and failing to brush while going to bed. Some of the common foods that usually cause this problem include hard foods whose particles might remain on the teeth, or meats that get in between the cracks.

These food particles will have a negative effect on you while sleeping which can easily cause teeth soreness. The most effective way of avoiding this problem is ensuring that you brush and floss prior to sleeping. Through brushing and flossing one can remove the food particles that might have remained on the teeth and therefore have a comfortable night.

3. Sleep Positions

People who tend to sleep in certain positions might wake up with their teeth feeling sore. For instance, placing the hands below the face, especially on the jaw area, or sleeping with your face on something hard like rings or bracelets (it’s common for people nowadays to sleep with their phone right next to them) can cause the teeth to be sore.

Pay attention to where the pain/soreness is being distributed. Is it just on one side? Both sides? Upper teeth? Lower teeth?
A person who usually moves his or her face towards the rail of the bed might also make the teeth feel sore in the morning. The ideal solution for teeth soreness caused by these issues is ensuring that one removes all jewelry before going to bed, and puts their phone on a nightstand nearby.

One should also practice placing the hands away from the face while sleeping. It is also helpful to try sleeping far away from the bed rails and placing a pillow between yourself and the rail, so as to avoid placing the face along the rails while asleep.

Other possible reasons my teeth are sore

4. Have you had a dental appointment or cleaning lately?

Sometimes getting your teeth and gums probed and prodded with dental tools can cause some continued soreness. This will usually subside within a few days after treatment and should not cause alarm.

5. Sprained Tooth Syndrome (STS)

This can form from a number of things; such as an overfilled filling or crown, cold allergy/sinus issues, or shifting of teeth. Additionally,  crunching , grinding or opening the mouth continuously can aggravate the tooth & ligament that is attached to the tooth, and even exacerbate clenching and grinding.

Sometimes STS can arise from a small minor accident like crunching on a pointy, sticky or chewy food & worsen from that point. Dental treatment for STS may include changing the patients bite, Ibuprofen, the use of sensitive toothpaste and/or a dental night guard.

You should seek professional dental help if you suspect you may be suffering from STS as this syndrome can be complex.

What do you think? Have you suffered from morning teeth soreness?

  • Yes I do and it’s because I grind my teeth
  • Yes I do and it’s because I clench my teeth
  • I do and I don’t know why
  • I do have tooth soreness and its because of another reason entirely. Tell us why in the comment section!
  • It could be because I’m not brushing/flossing my teeth enough
  • It could be because of my sleep position, phone in bed with me, railing, jewelry, etc

Solving the problem of grinding and clenching by wearing a custom night guard is now a convenient solution because these guards are easily accessible online. A person who might need a dental night guard can complete the entire process without ever having to leave their house.

Don’t know if you should go through an online night guard lab or pay your dentist? There are some instances when you should definitely go through the dentist. If you’re suffering from TMJ, jaw alignment issues or if your dentist recommends making you a special type of night guard involving metal clasps or ramps, you will need him/her to fabricate that type of special appliance for you.

The process of buying a Sentinel Night Guard is simple and the payment modes with features that include PayPal are secure and user-friendly.

Furthermore, purchasing your new night guard from Sentinel Mouth Guards is way less expensive than what a dentist charges.

There can be other reasons why you might complain that “my teeth are sore” that are not listed in this article. Discuss your tooth soreness with your dentist. He/she can take x-rays to see if there are some visual signs of trouble in one or more of your teeth. A dentist can also perform sleep tests and examine your teeth for fracture lines or dental damage if you are indeed grinding or clenching at night.

Do you have something to add to this article? Please do! See the comment section below.

bpa free dental night guard safe in the mouth

Safest BPA Free Dental Night Guards

This article has been medically reviewed and verified by Dr. Lara Coseo (DDS, FAGD) as of 6/10/2020. She is a 2004 graduate of Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas, TX. Having practiced general dentistry for 13 years, Dr. Lara currently serves as an Associate Professor at Texas A&M College of Dentistry.

“I am looking for a night guard that is BPA free or pthalate free?”

If you’ve ever experienced chronic teeth grinding or had a family member affected by the problem, you probably realize that this is a matter that should not be overlooked.

Reasons to wear a BPA free night guard

1.) BPA is linked to an array of dysfunctions, disorders and even cancers including:

Cardiovascular disease, breast, brain & prostate cancer, attention related disorders, erectile dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, learning disorders, early onset puberty, infertility, diabetes, and obesity.

2.) Safely protects the teeth without exposure to toxicity

Grinding or clenching comes with serious consequences, such as teeth flattening, teeth cracking/breakage, tongue indentation, headaches, and it could even strip your teeth of their enamel.

Some of these damages can result in major dental costs. The good news is, the use of BPA-free dental night guards is an approach that is non-invasive and safe.

3.) Peace of mind/ Control over your health

You don’t need to take prescription medication to curb bruxism (actually prescription meds may be making your bruxing worse). The use of a BPA free dental night guard is more of a preventive remedy than a cure. Don’t wait until it’s too late and your teeth are seriously damaged to take preventive measures for tooth protection.

4.) Safe for pregnant women

Episode #1178 of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast opened with Dr. Rhonda Patrick providing some great examples of her own thoughts on BPA, and why she is hyper-aware of which bottles she gives her 18 month-old baby, plastic coffee cups concerns, and more!

She worries quite often that she is exposing her baby to too much BPA. This is an excerpt from the podcast of her thoughts on BPA.

"Boiling water and putting it in plastic increases the BPA that leaches into solution by 55 fold. So, yes, definitely heating it up is way worse. One of the things I'm always thinking about is – there are now studies that have come out and these studies have been done in animals that show that BPS and some of the other BPA replacements also have negative consequences on the endocrine system, on reproduction and in some cases they're passed on to multiple generations. Now, how much of that actually translates to humans is unknown, but there have been studies with BPA that have shown that you can give a person a single dose of BPA and it would disrupt their insulin sensitivity."

She continued:

It also plays a role in causing problems with In Vitro Fertilization so it’s disrupting hormones and things like that. So, I was really cognizant about it during pregnancy because typically we do “detoxify” it quite well. The half life of BPA is less than 5 hours and we excrete it through urine. It also comes out through sweat, by the way, which is really good. But when you’re pregnant, for whatever reason, the placenta… well, when you take in BPA your liver inactivates it into this more benign compound – but when it gets into your placenta it becomes activated again, so I made sure I was not drinking anything out of a plastic or anything like that while I was pregnant.”

As a scientist, she is concerned. So should we be too?

Are Night Guards Typically BPA free?

are night guards bpa free?

A big concern for many people regarding night guards is whether or not they contain bisphenol-A (BPA).

BPA is a synthetic compound used in the manufacture of plastic to harden it.

If body organs get exposed to large amounts of this compound, some complications such as hormonal disorders, heart problems, brain and behavioral issues can be a consequence.

This has led to the banning of the compound in countries such as Canada and the European Union when it comes to baby bottle manufacturing.

It might be hard to determine whether a night guard contains BPA or not, but that should never be a matter of major concern, because most dental material brands out there DO NOT include this compound in their products.

This is according to the American Dental Association. There may be an exception out there somewhere, but generally, night guard use is not a health risk at all & most guards do not contain BPA.

All Sentinel Mouthguards are completely BPA Free


Are Sentinel Mouth Guards & Night Guards Phthalate Free?
Phthalates, commonly known as plasticizers, are chemicals included in plastics to make them flexible and harder to break. The CDC affirms that any dangers posed by low amounts of phthalates are unknown – but have also revealed that in large amounts, phthalates have had an effect on laboratory animals’ reproductive systems.

Most forms of vinyl need phthalates in their processing, but luckily for us, EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) vinyl, which is used in making soft night guards, contains absolutely no phthalates.

Dialkyl ortho-phthalate (o-DAPS) is used in the manufacture of some hard acrylic night guards to give them the thermoplastic nature. While people are exposed to phthalates from an array of products and sources –such as dietary sources, teething rings & toys, indoor air pollution, and to a lesser extent, dermal contact– human health effects from phthalates at low environmental doses are currently unknown.

Sentinel Dental Night Guards do not contain phthalates

“Are Sentinel Mouth Guards & Night Guards Silicon Free?”

Just because silicon is an inert element does not mean it does not have side effects.

Silicon, in the form of silicon dioxide (crystalline silica) could be a chronic respiratory hazard as researches on laboratory animals have shown that lung damage can occur.

Silicon crystalline, when in contact with the skin and the eyes, causes irritation, scaling and itching.

Crystalline silica, in the form of quartz and cristobalite, has again been associated with lung cancer. It is however a respite to learn that the most common and natural forms of silicon (silica and silicates) are non-toxic and there is generally no threat posed by these forms of silicon.

Silica and silicates are popular with sippy cup manufacturers like Nuby because it’s considered non-toxic. Though if you’re still not at ease, dental material makers have recognized the increasing public awareness & concern for what we put in our mouths, and have made purchasing silicon free night guards easy.

Why is BPA bad?

BPA is linked with

Cardiovascular disease

Breast, brain & prostate cancer

Attention related disorders

Erectile dysfunction

Sexual dysfunction

Learning disorders

Early onset puberty




Did you know 93% of Americans have BPA in their body?

All Sentinel Mouthguards are BPA, silicon and latex free.