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IMAGE Losing teeth is not a natural part of playing a contact sport. Regardless of the sport you play, mouthguards are an easy and inexpensive way to protect your mouth from injury.

Mouthguards are fortunately a much more common sight. In many sports, professional and amateur, mouthguards are must-have equipment. These little guards offer high protection at a low cost for the athletes of any age.

Guard Against Injury to Your Mouth

Injuries in sports are common, especially in contact sports. A mouthguard should always make the list when you are purchasing your sports equipment. Evidence shows that not wearing a mouthguard can nearly double your risk of oral injury.

The American Dental Association recommends athletes of all ages use a mouthguard for activities with some degree of injury risk. A mouthguard can not only help prevent broken teeth but also decrease injuries to the lips, tongue, face, or jaw. Here are some common activities that require a mouthguard:

  • Football
  • Soccer
  • Wrestling
  • Basketball
  • Volleyball
  • Baseball
  • Hockey
  • In-line skating or skateboarding
  • Cycling

Mouthguards should be used for any sport with a potential for facial injury, not just the ones listed above.

When you are buying a mouthguard, here are a few things you should look for:

  • Flexibility
  • Tear-resistance
  • Comfortable fit
  • Proper fit
  • No restriction on breathing

While you are out shopping, you may also find there are different types of mouthguards for different sports.

Types of Mouthguards

There is some variation in mouthguards, so choose carefully. You may also want to discuss your options with your dentist. Here are some examples of the types of mouthguards you may see:

  • Ready-made—These can be purchased at most sporting goods stores. They are pre-formed and ready to wear. These mouthguards are the least expensive, but also the least effective. You may also find them uncomfortable. This type of mouth guard only stays in position when your mouth is closed.
  • Mouth-formed —Also called boil-and-bite mouth protectors, this type can be purchased at most sporting goods stores. They may fit better than the ready-made option. The protector is softened in hot water, then inserted into the mouth and allowed to adapt to the shape of your mouth. This type cannot be used if you have braces. The material may also become brittle after it has been worn for a while.
  • Custom-made—This type is made personally for you by your dentist. It is more expensive than the other two types. Because it is customized, it usually has the best fit and will offer the best coverage for your mouth. This type of mouthguard also does not interfere with your ability to speak.

Before you decide on the type mouthguard you want to purchase, there are a few more issues to consider:

  • Do you still have primary teeth or missing teeth?
  • The needs of the specific sport and level at which you are playing. Ask for recommendations from coaches or instructors.
  • Dental work that may interfere with mouthguard such as crowns or braces

Like anything you own, you have to take care of it. When you do, it will last longer and work the way it is supposed to.

Take Care of Your Mouthguard

Caring for your mouthguard is easy. Whether you bought it at a store or had it custom-fitted by a dentist, it only takes a few minutes to keep your mouthguard in fighting shape.

  • Rinse with cool water or mouthwash before and after each use. You can also clean it with toothpaste and a toothbrush.
  • Store it in a case that has vents so it can air out properly between uses.
  • Keep it in a place where it is not too hot or too cold to help protect the shape.
  • Check it for wear and tear to make sure it is in good shape.
  • Make sure that it does not irritate your mouth when you wear it.
  • Do not chew on it.

Remember to see your dentist on a regular basis as part of your overall dental care. Bring the mouthguard with you to your appointment. It is a good way to make sure the mouthguard is working effectively.

No matter what your age or sport, make sure you take some time to invest in a mouthguard. Mouthguards are an easy, inexpensive way to protect your mouth from injury and permanent damage.

  • The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

    http://www.aaoms.org/

  • The American Dental Association

    http://www.ada.org/

  • Canadian Dental Association

    http://www.cda-adc.ca/

  • Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

    http://www.cdha.ca/

  • Consumer’s guide for choosing the right mouth guard. American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aaoms.org/docs/facial%5Fprotection%5Fmonth/mouthguard%5Fchart.pdf. Accessed November 30, 2012.

  • Keep Sports Safe—Wear a Mouthguard. American Dental Association Division of Science. J Am Dent Assoc. 2012;143(3):312.

  • Mouthguards. American Dental Association website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/m/mouthguards.aspx. Accessed November 30, 2012.

  • Statement on Athletic Mouthguards. American Dental Association website. Available at: http://www.ada.org/1875.aspx. Updated February 2009. Accessed November 30, 2012.