Mouthguards were first used in sport with boxers wearing a thin piece of rubber to protect the teeth from impacts. They have been developed in this century into becoming an indispensable aid in dental protection and care.
Injuries to the teeth, jaw and face require special treatment. The preventative value of mouthguards has been proven to significantly reduce the chance of an injury during sports*. Damage to the teeth does not heal up like a cut on the lip and the pain can be intense too.
The Pros & Cons of Mouthguards
There are basically 3 types of mouthguards available to anyone concerned with preventative teeth care –
- “Boil n’ Bite/Mouth-formed
Custom-made mouthguards are provided by your dental practitioner after a full mouth impression has been taken and sent for fabrication at a dental laboratory. The exact specifications ensure that your mouthguard has a comfortable and tight fit. This is the best protection your mouth can have and is highly recommended for children from a young age who play sports or grind their teeth.
The advantages of getting a customised mouthguard are
- It does not interfere with your speech or breathing
- It provides coverage for all your teeth and cushions your jaw
- It is comfortable while providing protection during sports and activities
- It will feel the most comfortable if worn at night to prevent teeth grinding
The drawback with getting a customised mouthguard is the initial financial outlay. They are considered the only viable option for anyone who is serious about preventative dental care.
Boil n’ Bite/Mouth-formed Mouthguards
This is a store-bought device that is soaked in hot water until soft, bitten down upon to take on the mould of the teeth’s shape and then sets in the shape of the bite impression.
The advantages of this type of mouthguard are
- It provides an average quality mouthguard for a cost-effective price
- It is available at pharmacies and sporting goods suppliers
- For the financial outlay, it has a better fit than store bought pre-made mouthguards
The drawbacks of this type mouthguard is they tend to wear out quickly and need to be replaced often for protection to remain beneficial. They feel bulky in the mouth which can make breathing and speech difficult. This means they are not recommended for use at night for teeth grinding.
Commercial or retail mouthguards are made from polyvinyl or rubber materials. The size selection comes in small, medium and large. They are standard issue for any sports play and are popular for this purpose.
The advantages of this type mouthguard are that they are commonly available in most activity and sports stores and are reasonably priced.
The drawbacks of these ‘one-size-fits-all’ type mouthguard is they are not able to be modified to fit the individual mouth. The lack of snugness makes it the least protective mouthguard choice. The size can be bulky and uncomfortable and needs the mouth to be closed to keep it in place. This will inhibit speech and breathing.
Proper Mouthguard Care
Like any piece of equipment, mouthguards need proper care. Washing in tepid soapy water and rinsing is needed both before and after use. Brushing your mouthguard using toothpaste and a toothbrush should be done after every use to eliminate germs and build-up.
A quick consult with your dental expert can help you choose which mouthguard is the best option for you.
*In 1995, a study of sporting injuries when the players used mouthguards reported only 0.7% orofacial injuries. When mouthguards were missing, orofacial injuries were reported at 34%.