Mouthguards 1


Though rarely thought of this way, sports activities can be very dangerous for an individual’s mouth and head. In fact, according to the American Dental Association roughly one third of all oral and dental injuries–approximately two hundred thousand injuries in our country each year–occur while individuals are participating in a sports activity. Fortunately, there is a way to protect against these injuries.

A mouth guard is designed to protect the mouth, teeth, cheeks, tongue and jaw against injury, such as chipped or broken teeth, fractured crowns or bridgework, damage to the soft tissues of the lip and cheek, root damage to the teeth, fractured jaws and concussions. Mouth guards are so successful in preventing or mitigating oral and dental injuries that they are actually mandatory in collision sports like football, hockey and boxing, while being highly recommend in other incidental contact sports like basketball, baseball, softball, wrestling, soccer and volleyball, just to name a few. That said, while other protective gear like goggles, helmets, shoulder pads and shin guards are often worn in order to prevent or mitigate serious injury, mouth guards are usually forgotten if not made mandatory. Unfortunately, this can mean that preventable injuries are often sustained by both sports amateurs and professionals, and young and adult athletes alike.

Mouth Guard Options

Generally speaking, a mouth guard is made from a soft plastic or laminate material that is flexible and fits well over the teeth and around the tongue. That said, there are three main types of mouth guards:

  1. Stock mouth guards. These are usually the least expensive option, as they are readily available in most sporting goods stores and designed along a “one-size-fits-all” method. Unfortunately, stock mouth guards are often highly uncomfortable, moving around and rubbing the gums and other soft tissues unnecessarily. They are also often the least effective at protecting against oral and dental injuries.
  2. Boil-and-bite mouth guards. These are also often found in most sporting goods stores, and are usually just a bit more costly than stock mouth guards. In an effort to better fit them to the individual’s mouth, boil-and-bite mouth guards are designed to be boiled until very soft and pliable. They are then placed in the mouth after they cool enough, and bitten down on so as to leave an impression where the individual’s teeth are. These mouth guards may be slightly more comfortable than stock mouth guards, but still tend to slide around a bit in the mouth. Likewise, they may be slightly more protective than stock mouth guards but not as protective as custom mouth guards.
  3. Custom mouth guards. These are only obtainable through a dental professional, who will take an impression of the individual’s mouth and teeth so that the mouth guard can be fabricated to fit their mouth perfectly and comfortably. While custom mouth guards are the most expensive option, they are also the most comfortable, resilient and protective option.

Caring for a Mouth Guard

Though made to be resilient, mouth guards tend to work better and last longer if they are well taken care of. This means that they must be cleaned properly and replaced when they have become worn or damaged. Proper mouth guard care includes:

  • Cleaning the mouth guard thoroughly with a toothbrush and toothpaste after each use.
  • Keeping the mouth guard away from hot water or extreme temperatures that will cause it to melt.
  • Storing the mouth guard in its protective case when not in use.
  • Avoiding chewing on the mouth guard.
  • Having the mouth guard repaired or replaced when it no longer fits properly or has become worn or damaged.

At first glance a mouth guard may not seem to be a vitally important piece of protective sports gear, especially for individuals who participate in non-contact sports, like ice skating. However, with some basic education in the purpose and use of mouth guards, the truth is that it clearly becomes one of the most important pieces of protective sports gear simply because it can prevent extensive and serious oral and dental injuries from occurring. It is far better to be safe than sorry, and wear a properly-fitted mouth guard whenever participating in any sports activity.


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