Jun 212015
 

Short Answer: Silicone for a mouth guard and Gold for a night guard

Long Answer: This question comes up occasionally because there is more and more public awareness about the dangers of plastics. Most people know about Bisphenol A (BPA) which is a chemical used in the production of plastics. It can be found lining soda cans, plastic wrap, canned food and even in the thermal paper of sales receipts (which is readily absorbed through your skin when you handle them). It was banned from use in all children’s products in 2012 due to concerns about health effects. But companies soon started substituting BPA with a different compound called Bisphenol S (BPS). Many scientist believe BPS is even more potent and potentially more toxic than BPA. I really couldn’t make this up!

The marketing departments of these manufactures get to slap a big and proud “BPA-Free” label on their products but fail to mention what new chemicals they substituted in its place. Additionally, it also doesn’t mean your only concern should be BPA or BPS. There are other chemicals found in some plastics like Phthalates, Vinyl Chloride, Dioxins and Styrenes. Suffice it to say, I believe that no matter what a manufacturer claims, plastics are generally not to be trusted and they should be avoided when it is practical and reasonable. I have personally gone to great lengths to avoid contacting these chemicals, from getting a stainless steel blender, having the butcher put meat in my own glass container, not touching store sales receipts with my bare fingers and having absolutely no canned-anything in my house. That is just a short list of everything I have done 🙂 Am I a little crazy? Maybe. But I really believe plastic is not a good thing.

ATHLETIC MOUTH GUARD

So what is a patient to do if they need an athletic mouth guard?  99% of all these products are made of some plastic. Typically, athletic mouth-guards are soft and are made of a variety of plastics and usually some kind of copolyester. It is both impractical and not beneficial to make an athletic mouth guard from a rigid material, which is why it must be relatively thick and somewhat soft. In my own research, I have found that silicone is an exceptionally safe and effective alternative to traditional plastics. I use it in situations where I require a soft and pliable material. For example, I use a silicone spatula, baking sheet and reusable sealable bags, all made from 100% silicone. You can do your own research, but suffice it to say, I believe silicone is the only safe material out there that behaves like typical plastic. The good news is that you can have athletic mouth guards made from silicone, and that would be my preferred material for making one.

NIGHT GUARD

As for a night guard designed to protect from bruxism (tooth grinding), that is a whole different situation. I do not recommend anything soft for addressing bruxism, because a poorly adjusted soft night guard has the potential to cause jaw joint issues (TMD) and can also lead to an increase in grinding during the night. I will leave the issue of night guards for another post, but the bottom line is that a night guard should be rigid. Typically, dentists make hard night guards from acrylics, and usually (MMA) Methyl Methacrylate, Urethane Methacrylate, Stearyl Acrylate and others. Picture of a gold and plastic night guardThese materials do work very well and I make night guards using them for my patients today. That is because most people are not as health obsessed as I am and all these materials have been evaluated by the FDA and other health governing bodies like the American Chemistry Council. They have been found to be safe, so I cannot honestly say that I am sure a hard night guard made of plastic will harm you in any way. Also, since the majority of hard night guards are acrylic-based, you can rest assured they have no BPA or BPS in them. That doesn’t mean other harmful chemicals are not present, but at least you can know there is no BPA/BPS in any of them. With few exceptions, no modern dental material has BPA in it and all dental materials made in a lab have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. http://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/bisphenol-a

When in doubt, ask your dentist for the “MSDS” (Material Safety Data Sheet) for whatever product the lab is making your night guard from. Most will provide it and you can verify what is being used. There are some states where dental labs are not required to disclose the materials being used, so your situation may be different.

Despite any reassurances, if you are deeply concerned, then the best alternative I have found is to make a device out of gold (or gold alloy). You can also read here to find out why I think gold is safe. Unfortunately, it is not cheap to make a gold night guard. A typical well-adjusted hard night guard made of plastic would cost you about $500 at a dental office. An equivalent gold night guard could run in the $3,000-$4,000 range, and most dentists would look at you funny if you even asked about it. You would have to be pretty concerned to justify such an expense. On the other hand, a gold night guard could potentially last a lifetime, as opposed to a plastic one which requires replacement every 5 years or so. And you would rest assured (pun intended) that the product you have sitting in your mouth for 1/3 of your life has no potentially harmful chemicals. I personally think it’s worth it, but then again, I admit to being a little weird.Gold night guardA gold night guard in use

The bottom line is this: If you need an athletic mouth guard, I would recommend having one made of 100% silicone with no added coloring or scents, etc.. If you need a night guard, I would always recommend a well adjusted hard one. And if you could afford it, the safest material to make it from is clearly gold.

 

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  29 Responses to “Q: If plastics are bad for you, what is the safest material to make a mouth guard or night guard from?”

  1. so my question regarding oral/dental use of silicone:

    what type of silicone is recommended for a baby teether, a baby pacifier, or a mouth guard?
    silicones come in various grades. food grade, medical grade, class 4, class 5, class 6, …, etc.
    which one would be safest for oral/dental use?

    also, isn’t silicone somewhat bitter in nature?
    how is the bad taste fixed? is there something in processing or manufacturing that can improve the taste?

    thanks in advance
    sam
    los angeles, ca

    • I don’t think in the US you can buy a teether or pacifier that is not food grade or medical grade and these would be safest. Silicone approved as Class 5 & 6 are considered medical grade. I have never noticed any bitterness to medical grade silicone, so am not sure how to help with that. Typically, silicone absorbs flavors and colors when in contact with food, but that would not apply to oral applications.

  2. Isn’t gold fairly soft and pliable unless other ingredients are added to it? Could other ingredients besides gold be toxic? I’ve worn a nightgaurd for 7 years due to tmj. Im kind of a health but so I’ve always been sad to wear it but it changed my life.

    • Pure 24 karat gold is a bit too soft for a night guard so other metals are used in an alloy of gold. High noble gold suitable for a night guard is 75% gold, 10% copper, 4% palladium, 11% silver and then there are a few other metals but in trace amounts.

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