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Mouthguards are coverings worn over teeth and often used to protect teeth from injury during sports.There are three types of mouth guards:

  1. Stock mouth protectors are preformed and come ready to wear. They are inexpensive and can be bought at most sporting good stores and department stores. However, little can be done to adjust their fit, they are bulky, make breathing and talking difficult, and they provide little or no protection. Dentists do not recommend their use.
  2. Boil and bite mouth protectors also can be bought at many sporting goods stores and may offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. The “boil and bite” mouth guard is made from thermoplastic material. It is placed in hot water to soften, then placed in the mouth and shaped around the teeth using finger and tongue pressure.
  3. Custom-fitted mouth protectors are individually designed and made in a dental office or a professional laboratory based on your dentist’s instructions. First, your dentist will make an impression of your teeth and a mouth guard is then molded over the model using a special material. Due to the use of the special material and because of the extra time and work involved, this custom-made mouth guard is more expensive than the other types, but it provides the most comfort and protection.

Generally, mouthguards cover your upper teeth only, but in some instances (such as if you wear braces or another fixed dental appliance on your lower jaw), your dentist will make a mouth guard for the lower teeth as well. Your dentist can suggest the best mouth guard for you. An effective mouthguard should be comfortable, resist tears, be durable and easy to clean, and should not restrict your breathing or speech.

Who Needs a Mouth Guard?

Mouthguards should be used by anyone — children and adults — who play contact sports such as football, boxing, soccer, ice hockey, basketball, lacrosse, and field hockey. However, even those participating in non-contact sports (for example, gymnastics) and any recreational activity (for example, skateboarding, mountain biking) that might pose a risk of injury to the mouth would benefit from wearing a protective mouth guard.

Why Use a Mouthguard When Playing Sports?

Because accidents can happen during any physical activity, the advantage of using a mouth guard during sports is that it can help limit the risk of mouth-related injuries to your lips, tongue, and soft tissues of your mouth. Mouth guards also help you avoid chipped or broken teeth, nerve damage to a tooth, or even tooth loss.

Can I Wear a Mouthguard if I Wear Braces?

Yes. Since an injury to the face could damage braces or other fixed appliances, a properly fitted mouthguard may be particularly important for people who wear braces or have fixed bridgework. Your dentist or orthodontist can determine the mouth guard that will provide the best protection for your unique mouth work.

How Do I Care for My Mouth Guard?

To care for your mouth guard:

  • Rinse your mouthguard with cold water or with a mouth rinse before and after each use or clean it with mild soap and a toothbrush.
  • Clean the mouthguard in cool, soapy water and rinse it thoroughly.
  • Place the mouth guard in a firm, perforated container to store or transport it. This permits air circulation and helps to prevent damage. If the mouth guard is acrylic, keep it in fresh clean water.
  • Protect the mouthguard from high temperatures — such as hot water, hot surfaces, or direct sunlight — to minimize distorting its shape.
  • Occasionally check the mouthguard for general wear. If you find holes or tears in it or if it becomes loose or causes discomfort, replace it.
  • Bring the mouthguard to each regularly scheduled dental visit to have your dentist exam it.

Be sure to check with your dentist for specific caring instructions as they may vary from appliance to appliance.

Sources

SOURCES:

American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons: “Consumer’s guide for choosing the right mouthguard.”

American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons: “Treating and Preventing Facial Injury.”

American Dental Association: “Mouthguards.”