Imagine what it would be like if you suddenly lost one or more of your front teeth. Smiling, talking, eating — everything would suddenly be affected. Mouthguards, also called mouth protectors or sports guards, help cushion a blow to the face, minimizing the risk of broken teeth and injuries to your lips, tongue, face or jaw. They typically cover the upper teeth and are a great way to protect the soft tissues of your mouth. Knowing how to prevent injuries like these is especially important if you participate in organized sports or other recreational activities.
When it comes to protecting your mouth, a sports guard is an essential piece of athletic gear that should be part of your standard equipment. In fact, studies show that athletes are 60-times more likely to suffer harm to their teeth if they are not wearing a mouthguard. While collision and contact sports, such as boxing, are higher-risk sports for oral trauma, you can experience a dental injury in non-contact activities too, such as gymnastics and skating.
Three types of sports guards:
- Custom-fitted sports guards. Your dentist makes these guards for you personally. They are more expensive than the other options, but because they are customized to you they offer the best fit and afford you the best protection.
- Stock sports guards. These are inexpensive options and come pre-formed, ready to wear. Unfortunately, they often do not fit very well. They can be bulky and can make breathing and talking difficult.
- Boil and bite sports guards. These mouth protectors can be bought at many sporting goods stores and drugstores and may offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. They are first softened in water (boiled), then inserted and allowed to adapt to the shape of your mouth.
The best sports guard is one that has been custom made for your mouth by your dentist. However, if you can’t afford a custom-fitted sports guard, you should still wear a stock sports guard or a boil-and-bite sports guard from the drugstore. If you wear braces or another fixed dental appliance on your lower jaw, your dentist may suggest a mouth protector for these teeth as well.
A properly fitted sports guard may be especially important for people who wear braces or have fixed bridgework. A blow to the face could damage the brackets or other fixed orthodontic appliances. A sports guard also provides a barrier between the braces and your cheek or lips, limiting the risk of soft tissue injuries.
Talk to your dentist or orthodontist about selecting a sports guard that will provide the best protection. Although sports guards typically only cover the upper teeth, your dentist or orthodontist may suggest that you use a mouthguard on the lower teeth if you have braces on these teeth too.
If you have a retainer or other removable appliance, do not wear it during any contact sports.
Tips for caring for your sports guard:
- Rinse before and after each use or brush with a toothbrush and toothpaste
- Occasionally clean the sports guard in cool, soapy water and rinse thoroughly
- Transport the sports guard in a sturdy container that has vents
- Never leave the sports guard in the sun or in hot water
- Check for wear and tear to see if your sports guard needs replacing