Mouthguards: Protecting Your Pearly Whites

Losing teeth is not a natural part of playing a contact sport. Luckily, mouthguards are an easy and cheap way to protect your mouth from harm. In many sports, they are must-have piece of equipment.

Guard Against Injury to Your Mouth

Injuries in sports are common, especially in contact sports. A mouthguard should always make the list when you are buying your sports equipment. Not wearing one can nearly double your risk of oral injury.

The American Dental Association recommends athletes of all ages use a mouthguard for activities with some degree of injury risk. They help prevent broken teeth and lower the risk of injuries to the lips, tongue, face, and jaw. They should be worn during these activities:

  • Football
  • Soccer
  • Wrestling
  • Basketball
  • Volleyball
  • Baseball
  • Hockey
  • Inline skating or skateboarding
  • Cycling

Mouthguards should be used for any sport with a risk of facial injury, not just the ones listed above.

When shopping, you should look for a mouthguard that is:

  • Flexible
  • Not able to be torn
  • Comfortable
  • The right fit
  • Easy to breathe while wearing

Types of Mouthguards

There are different types of mouthguards, so choose carefully. You may also want to talk to your dentist about which one may be best for your needs.

Here are some types that you may find:

  • Ready-made—You can buy these at most sporting goods stores. They are pre-formed and ready to wear. They do not cost much, but they are also not as effective as other types. You may also find them uncomfortable. This type of mouth guard only stays in place when your mouth is closed.
  • Mouth-formed —These are also called boil-and-bite mouth protectors. You can also buy these at most sporting goods stores. They usually fit better than the ready-made ones. The protector is softened in hot water and inserted into the mouth where it forms to the shape of your mouth. This type cannot be used if you have braces. The material may also get brittle after it has been worn for a while.
  • Custom-made—This type is custom made by your dentist. It costs more than the other types. It usually has the best fit and will offer the best coverage for your mouth. It also does not get in the way of your ability to speak.

Before you decide on the one you want to buy, there are a few more things to think about:

  • Whether you still have primary (baby) teeth or missing teeth
  • The needs of the sport and level at which you are playing
  • Dental work that may get in the way, such as crowns or braces

Take Care of Your Mouthguard

Caring for your mouthguard is easy and only takes a few minutes:

  • Rinse with cool water or mouthwash before and after each use. You can also clean it with toothpaste and a toothbrush.
  • Store it in a case that has vents so it can air out between uses.
  • Keep it in a place where it is not too hot or too cold to help protect the shape.
  • Check it for wear and tear to make sure it is in good shape.
  • Make sure that it does not bother your mouth when you wear it.
  • Do not chew on it.

Be sure to see your dentist twice a year. Bring the mouthguard with you to your appointments. Your dentist can make sure it is working as it should.

No matter your age or sport, make sure you take some time to buy and care for a mouthguard. They are an easy way to protect your mouth from damage.

RESOURCES:

American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
http://myoms.org

Mouth Healthy—The American Dental Association
http://www.mouthhealthy.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Dental Association
http://www.cda-adc.ca

Dental Hygiene Canada
http://www.dentalhygienecanada.ca

REFERENCES:

Choosing the mouth guard that's right for your sport or recreational activities. American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aaoms.org/images/uploads/pdfs/guide_to_mouthguards.pdf. Accessed June 30, 2021.

Mouthguards. American Dental Association Mouth Healthy website. Available at: https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/m/mouthguards. Accessed June 30, 2021.

Mouthguards. American Dental Association website. Available at: http://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/mouthguards. Accessed June 30, 2021.

Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board  Last Updated: 6/30/2021