A mouth guard is a flexible plastic appliance that is worn during recreational and athletic activities to protect the teeth from trauma or loss and to prevent jaw fractures, neck injuries and concussions. It has been estimated that wearing a mouth guard will reduce concussions by 50%. Mouth guards also minimize lacerated and bruised lips and cheeks by keeping these soft tissue areas away from the teeth. This is especially true for youngsters with orthodontic braces.
The mouth is the most injured area of the body during contact sports. Wearing mouth guards is highly recommended for those participating in boxing, basketball, field hockey, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, soccer, wrestling, water polo and rugby. The American Dental Association for those partaking in acrobatics, gymnastics, volleyball, handball, racquetball, skiing, skydiving, squash, surfing, weightlifting, shot putting and discus throwing also suggests mouth guards. Participants in recreational activities such as skateboarding and bicycling should wear mouth guards, especially in competition. An effective mouth guard should remain in place during the activity while not interfering with speech or breathing. It should provide maximum protection while being comfortable to wear. There are three types of mouth guards from which to choose:
- Stock (Ready-made) – Most sports stores carry these, and they are the least expensive. They are available in various sizes and shapes, but cannot be adjusted to fit your mouth. Often, they are loose and bulky and may interfere with speaking or breathing. These are the least desirable.
- Mouth-formed (“Boil & Bite”) – These are available in most sports stores and are relatively inexpensive. The plastic mouth guard shell is boiled in water for 10-45 seconds, cooled under tap water and molded and adapted directly in the mouth. Compared to custom-made guards, the fit is not as accurate, and it may not last as long.
- Custom-made – This type is highly recommended and the most effective. We make them at our dental office from a cast of your teeth. While they are a little bit more expensive than the store-bought variety, they provide the greatest protection and comfort. We know it’s well worth your safety and peace of mind.
Like any other sports gear, mouthguards can wear out and lose their effectiveness. They may have to be replaced after each sports season. However, proper care will increase their longevity. Heat is bad for mouthguards, because it may cause them to deform. Keep them out of direct sunlight and never leave them in a closed car. Rinse them under cold water with each use, and occasionally use soap and cold water to clean them. When not in use, either store your mouthguard in a well-ventilated plastic box or in a container immersed in water. Don’t handle or try to wear someone else’s mouthguard.