A mouthguard is a protective device for the mouth that covers the teeth and gums. It creates a barrier between the upper and lower teeth, thereby acting as a shock absorber and preventing your teeth from crashing together during impact and breaking. It also prevents you from accidentally biting your lips, tongue or cheeks.
The dental profession strongly supports the use of mouthguards in a wide variety of contact sports such as boxing, hockey, and football. They can help to cushion serious blows to the upper jaw, which could otherwise lead to broken teeth, jaw fractures, cerebral hemorrhage, neck injuries, and even concussion. If you are engaging in non-contact sports such as gymnastics, skateboarding or horse riding, wearing a protective mouthguard is also advised.
Every year, thousands of individuals, including children, are treated for severe injuries to the teeth, mouth, and jaws. These dental injuries can be minimised, and in some cases avoided altogether, by wearing a protective mouthguard.
Types of mouthguards
There are 3 different types of mouthguards, all of which differ in terms of cost, comfort level, and level of protection.
- Custom-made mouthguard – A custom-made mouthguard is generally made from acrylic materials, giving it a hard-outer surface and a softer inner surface. As the name specifies, this type of mouthguard is custom made to suit your teeth and gums. It is the most effective in terms of comfort and protection, yet also the most expensive.
- Boil-and-bite mouthguard – A boil-and-bite mouthguard is made from a plastic polymer material called thermoplastic. This type of mouthguard is boiled in water to get it to soften, and then placed inside your mouth. Once inside your mouth, it requires being bitten into and shaped around your teeth using your finger and tongue. Once it has cooled, the thermoplastic sets in place.
In comparison to a custom-made mouthguard, purchasing a boil-and-bite mouthguard is the more inexpensive option.
- Stock mouthguard – A stock mouthguard is pre-formed and usually created out of polyvinyl or rubber. As opposed to the aforementioned options, it often does not fit properly, thereby making it uncomfortable to wear. It is also the least protective and the least expensive to purchase.
The best type of mouthguard is, without a doubt, the one that has been custom made for your mouth by your dentist. Nevertheless, if you cannot afford a custom-made mouthguard, you remain with the option to purchase a boil-and-bite mouthguard or a stock mouthguard to avoid having your teeth take the full brunt of a blow.
Made just for you
The level of impact of the sport played, the cost, the material, the comfort level, and the level of protection – all of these are important factors that must be taken into consideration when deciding on a mouthguard. For this reason, it is best to consult with your dentist so that he or she can provide you with advice that is tailored to your specific (dental) needs.
It is also important to consult with your dentist about when would be the right time to replace your mouthguard. Generally, it is recommended to do so after 1 year. If, however, you have recently purchased a custom-made mouthguard and it is ill-fitting, damaged or shows signs of wear, it needs to be replaced immediately.
Over time, you will notice that your mouthguard will naturally wear out and change shape. Yet, how long it will last generally depends on the materials it is made from and how often you use it. In the meantime, it is crucial that you take good care of your mouthguard in order to prevent the spread of oral diseases, as well as to ensure its maximum protective capability.