What is a Mouthguard?
Mouthguards are coverings made of plastic or rubber that fit over your teeth. Properly fitted mouthguards absorb shocks and pressure, protecting your teeth from injury due to impact and damage due to wear.
Candidates for Mouthguards
It is recommended that athletes who participate in the following sports wear a mouthguard:
- Ice hockey
- Field hockey
- Martial arts
Along with preventing teeth from becoming chipped, cracked, broken, or knocked out, mouthguards have been proven to lessen the incidences of concussion during contact sports.
Adults and children who grind their teeth (bruxism) should have a mouthguard made to prevent tooth damage.
Types of Mouthguards
There are three types of mouthguards:
- Stock mouth protectors. These 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’re bulky, they make breathing and talking difficult, and they provide little or no protection. Dentists do not recommend their use.
- Boil and bite mouth protectors. These can also be bought at many sporting goods stores, and may fit your teeth better than stock mouth protectors. A boil and bite mouthguard 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, bite, and tongue pressure. This type of mouthguard doesn’t offer as precise a fit as a custom-fitted mouthguard, and can cause irritation of soft tissues. It can also fall out during use.
- Custom-fitted dental mouthguards. A mouthguard individually designed and made in a dental office or a professional laboratory can offer a better fit and protection than any other type.
Benefits of Getting a Custom-Made Mouthguard From Your Dentist
The benefits of a custom-made dental mouthguard include:
- Individualized fit. Custom mouthguards are designed specifically for your teeth. Dental guards can be made to vary in thickness for a better fit for teeth and gums, and to alleviate jaw strain. Store-bought mouthguards typically only cover upper teeth — your dentist can make a mouthguard that protects bottom teeth as well.
- Added protection. Depending on the sport you play or the severity of your bruxism, custom dental guards can be made thicker to provide more protection.
- Increased comfort. The more unobtrusive and comfortable a guard is, the more likely it is that a patient will wear it. And when a mouthguard isn’t comfortable, a patient is more likely to chew it, which can damage it and make it less protective.
- Custom mouthguards are also tasteless, odorless, and tear-resistant.
Can I Wear a Mouthguard if I Have Braces?
Yes. Your dentist can design a mouthguard that goes over braces, protecting both the braces and your teeth.
Caring For Your MouthGuard
Caring for your mouthguard is easy to do:
- Rinse your mouthguard with cold water or with a mouth rinse before and after each use, or clean it with a mild soap and a toothbrush.
- Place the mouthguard 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 mouth guard from high temperatures — such as hot water, hot surfaces, or direct sunlight — to minimize distorting its shape.
- Occasionally check the mouthguard for general wear. Replace your mouthguard if you find holes or tears in it, or if it becomes loose or causes discomfort.