If you or another member of your family is very active or plays sports, it’s a good idea to consider the value in wearing a mouthguard. It’s very easy to damage your teeth or suffer a mouth injury, and mouthguards are an excellent way to avoid that. While they are particularly useful for children and teenagers who play sports, they can be just as valuable for active adults.
A mouthguard (also sometimes referred to as a “sportsguard”) is typically made of laminate or a soft plastic material that protects the wearer’s teeth, cheeks, mouth, tongue and jaw. Generic varieties are available in many sporting goods stores, but some dentists offer mouthguards as well, and some types can be custom-made for the wearer. What follows is an introduction to the variety of mouthguards available.
- Generic, one-size-fits-all mouthguards: This type can be found in most sporting goods stores, and while they do offer a limited amount of protection, they’re often uncomfortable to wear and rarely fit snugly inside the mouth.
- Boil-and-bite mouthguards: Also found in sporting goods stores, the boil-and-bite variety are better at protecting the wearer’s mouth than generic guards since they can be boiled in water and bitten into to form a more custom fit for the wearer.
- Custom-made mouthguards: Usually available through a dentist office, custom-made sportsguards off the highest level of protection. The dentist begins by making an impression of the wearer’s teeth and mouth, then uses that impression to create a custom-made mouthguard that fits the wearer perfectly. Not only do custom-made devices offer more protection, they’re also much more comfortable to wear and easier to speak with than either the generic or boil-and-bite styles.
Although wearing any mouthguard is better than wearing none at all, the custom mouthguards are typically recommended for any person who plays rough-and-tumble sports on a regular basis. This is particularly true for people who wear braces or other dental appliances. Generic mouthguards don’t offer a level of protection adequate enough to protect either the wearer’s teeth or dental appliances. Although boil-and-bite varieties are somewhat more effective than generic, most dentists would recommend custom-made mouthguards for people who wear braces or other dental appliances.
In some situations, a child playing sports will actually be required to wear a mouthguard, so it’s a good idea to speak to your child’s coach to find out what the requirements are before choosing one. If you’re an adult trying to decide which is right for you, consider the type of activity you engage in. Generally speaking, the rougher the activity, the more protection you’ll need from a mouthguard.