Well –fitted mouthguards avoid injuries to your teeth, mouth and jaw while you’re playing contact sports. Many have speculated that mouthguards can prevent some sports-related concussions; by helping to absorb shock, stabilize the head and neck, and limit movement caused by a direct hit to the jaw. But, there has been little evidence until a recent study published in the May/June 2014 issue of General Dentistry, the peer reviewed clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry that studied the benefits of custom fitted mouthguards in the prevention of mild traumatic brain injuries.
Here are some basic facts about mouthguards:
What is a mouthguard?
A mouthguard is a flexible appliance that is worn during athletic
and recreational activities to prevent injuries to your mouth and
face, such as split lips, broken teeth, and jaw fractures.
When should I wear a mouthguard?
It is advisable to wear a mouthguard any time there is a strong
chance of your head making contact with other participants or
hard surfaces. Mouthguards should be worn when participating
in activities such as basketball, softball, football, wrestling,
soccer, lacrosse, rugby, hockey, martial arts, and skateboarding.
What are the different types of mouthguards?
There are several types of mouthguards, including the following:
• Stock mouthguards: The least expensive option is a readymade
stock item, which offers the least protection since little
can be done to adjust its fit. This type of mouthguard—which
is available over-the-counter—requires the user to close his
or her jaw to hold it in place; as a result, it may interfere with
speech and breathing. It also may lead to soreness of the jaw
muscles. A stock mouthguard is not considered an acceptable
device for facial protection.
• Mouth-formed mouthguards: There are two types of
mouth-formed mouthguards, both of which are available
over-the-counter. The first is a shell-liner mouthguard, which
is made from an acrylic material that is poured into an outer
shell, where it forms a lining. When placed in an athlete’s
mouth, the lining material molds to the teeth and is allowed
to set. The second type is a thermoplastic, or “boil-and-bite,”
mouthguard. This type of mouthguard is softened in hot
water, placed in the mouth, and shaped around the teeth
using a finger or tongue, and sometimes biting pressure. This
type of mouthguard can provide some degree of protection,
but it can be bulky and have a loose fit.
• Custom-made mouthguards: When it comes to injury
prevention, a custom-made mouthguard is your best option.
This type of mouthguard, which is made by your dentist,
offers the best protection, fit, and comfort level because it is
made from a model of your teeth.
How should I care for my mouthguard?
To keep your mouthguard in good condition, follow these steps:
• After each use, brush your mouthguard with a toothbrush
and cool (not hot) water.
• Keep your mouthguard in a well-ventilated plastic storage
box when you’re not using it. Your dentist will provide you
with a case.
• Don’t leave your mouthguard in direct sunlight or in a hot
car; heat can melt the device, altering the way it fits in your
mouth—resulting in less protection.
• Bring your mouthguard with you when you see your dentist
for your regular checkups. Your dentist can give it a thorough
cleaning and check its structure and fit.
• Call your dentist if you have any concerns about your
For more information about mouthguards, talk to your dentist.