Mouthguards: What to know

A mouthguard is a flexible appliance made out of plastic that is worn in athletic and recreational activities to protect teeth from trauma.

Why should I wear a mouthguard?

To protect your mouth from injuries. The dental profession unanimously supports the use of mouthguards in a variety of sports activities. More than 200,000 injuries to the mouth and jaw occur each year.

Do they prevent injuries?

A mouthguard can prevent serious injuries such as concussions, cerebral hemorrhages, incidents of unconsciousness, jaw fractures and neck injuries by helping to avoid situations where the lower jaw gets jammed into the upper jaw.They are effective in moving soft issue in the oral cavity away from the teeth, preventing laceration and bruising of the lips and cheeks, especially for those who wear orthodontic appliances.

In what sports should I wear one?

Anytime there is a strong chance for contact with other participants or hard surfaces, it is advisable to wear a mouthguard. Players who participate in basketball, soft ball, football,wrestling, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, in-line skating, martial arts as well as recreational sports such as skateboarding, and bicycling should wear mouthguards while competing.

Why don’t kids wear mouthguards?

Parents are sometimes uninformed about the level of contact and potential for serious dental injuries involved with sports in which the child participates. Some, though not all schools, reinforce the health advantage of mouthguards for their contact sports. Cost may be another consideration, although they come in a variety of price ranges.

What are the different types?

Stock mouthguard: The lowest cost option is a stock item, which offers the least protection because the fit adjustment is limited. It may interfere with speech and breathing because this requires that the jaw be closed to hold it in place. A stock option is not considered acceptable as an facial protective device.

Mouth-formed protectors: These come as a shell-liner and “boil-and-bite” product. The shell is lined with acrylic or rubber. When placed in an athlete’s mouth, the protector’s lining material molds to the teeth and is allowed to set.

Custom-made mouth protectors: The best choice is one custom-made by your dentist. It offers the best protection, fit and comfort level because it is made from a cast to fit your teeth.

How should I care for a mouthguard?

  • Clean your mouthguard by washing it with soap and warm (not hot) water.
  • Before storing, soak your mouthguard in mouthwash.
  • Keep your mouthguard in a well-ventilated plastic storage box when not in use. Make sure the box has several holes so the mouth-guard will dry.
  • Heat is bad for mouth-guards, so don’t leave it in direct sunlight or in a closed automobile.
  • Don’t bend your mouth-guard when storing.
  • Don’t handle or wear some-one else’s mouthguard.
  • Call your dentist who made the mouthguard if there are any problems.

Updated July 1998

Sources: "Mouthguards Fight Weekend Warrior Injuries", Dental News, July 1997; David Kumamoto, DDS, Fellow of the Academy and team dentist for the University of Illinois-Chicago Athletic Department; "Mouthguards Can Save Your Teeth From Serious Injury", Pennsylvania Dental Association, Academy for Sports Dentistry, March 1998; Adaptation from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Dental School Department of Prosthodontics, Graduate Division; H. Douglas Mougey, DDS, FAGD; "Mouthguards aren't guarding enough young adults", DentalNotes, September 1996; American Society for Testing and Materials; Academy for Sports Dentistry; "Mouthguard Survey", Pediatric Dentistry, November/December 1997. Concise Illustrated Dental Dictionary, IOP Publishing Limited, 1987.