Mouthguards - Learn Everything You Need To Know

Every year, more than 200,000 people are treated by dentists and oral surgeons for sports-related injuries. Many of these injuries could be avoided if athletes and sports enthusiasts used protective equipment.

The mouth guard, a small, flexible plastic device, can dramatically protect athletes from injuries including concussions, jaw fractures, and neck and head trauma. Anyone participating in sports and especially contact sports such as football, hockey, soccer, and wrestling, should wear protective mouth guards for safety. It is especially important to wear a mouth guard if a person has braces. In addition, if a child's teeth protrude, it is very important that he or she wears one.

Different Types of Mouth Guards Available

Different types of mouth guards from off-the-shelf to custom-fitted types provide various advantages and degrees of protection . When considering options, evaluate the mouth guard's degree of comfort; the wearer's ability to speak and breathe; durability; and protection for the teeth and mouth.

  • The stock or off-the-shelf mouth guard is the least expensive type and offers the least protection. Adjustment is limited and may interfere with speech and breathing. The jaw holds the mouth guard in place so the jaw must be closed at all times to work properly -- not convenient or practical in many situations.
  • The "boil-and-bite" mouth guard found in athletic stores also is inexpensive. The mouth guard is dropped into hot water, then placed into the mouth; the synthetic material forms an impression around the teeth providing a better fit. Make certain that the mouth guard is not too big.
  • Custom-made mouth guards are more expensive, but after all of the permanent teeth have erupted, they do offer the best protection against injury. They're also more comfortable to wear. These are made by the dentist and tailored to fit your mouth.

Mouth guard Care

  • Wash with soap and warm water and soak the mouth guard in mouthwash before storage. Store in a well-ventilated plastic storage case when not using. Do not bend.
  • Some mouth guards can be cleaned with an effervescent cleaner such as Efferdent -- refer to individual instructions first.
  • Avoid exposing your mouth guard to heat, including leaving it in direct sunlight or in a hot car, which can permanently affect its shape and fit.
  • Keep it to yourself! Don't handle other people's mouth guards or let others use yours.

Your dentist wants you to avoid any risk of facial, head, neck, and dental injuries that can often be prevented with a protective mouth guard. For all these reasons, the dental profession encourages the use of high-quality mouth guards. Mouth guards are changing the face of sports and protecting hundreds of thousands of people in the process.

By Brian J. Gray, DDS, MAGD, FICO

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