Sports Mouthguards – Like a helmet for your teeth

Mouthguards for use during Sporting Activities

Sports-Mouthguard-Custom-Victoria-DentistMany of us enjoy a game of hockey or football on a Sunday afternoon. While we may suit up for these sports with shin guards and skates or cleats, we often forget about protection for our mouth, and only consider it in hindsight, after a sport-related dental injury occurs. Activity in some contact sports can allow a significant risk of dental trauma, where there may be deliberate or accidental impacts to the face or jaw. Examples of the types of dental trauma that can result from contact sports occur include lip cuts and lacerations from the teeth, broken or chipped teeth, or teeth that have been knocked-out.

Mouthguard-Stock-Emergency-DentistA mouthguard is also called a mouth protector, mouth piece, gumshield or gumguard. When placed in the mouth, it provides a cover to the teeth and gums to prevent or reduce injury to your teeth, gums and, by extention, your lips. Some studies have also shown that use of a mouthguard may reduce the severity of concussions when the concussion is caused by an injury to the jaw (1).

Some sports leagues or schools make mouthguards compulsory when playing certain sports. If you play any of the sports listed below and don’t already have a mouthguard to protect your teeth, you should strongly consider using one.

We suggest use of a mouthguard during these sports:

Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts, Baseball, Rugby, Wrestling, Soccer, American Football, Lacrosse, Hockey, Field Hockey, Water Polo, Skiing, Snowboarding, Basketball, Skating, and others.

There are several types of mouthguards available:

  1. Stock Mouthguards – A “stock” or “ready-made” mouthguard that is available at most sporting goods stores. These mouthguards are made in preformed shapes and sizes, but do not allow any adjustment to fit to the individual’s mouth. The stock mouth guard provides some protection, but often does not fit the individual properly because it is made to a standard size. This type of mouth guard often slips off of the teeth (if too large) or pinches the gums, causing discomfort. For this reason, this type of mouthguard is less likely to be used.
  2. Boil and Bite Mouthguards – A second type of mouthguard is known as “mouth adapted” or “boil and bite”.  These mouthguards are also available at sports stores and are also relatively inexpensive. Boil and bite mouthguards are made from a heat-sensitive plastic in a standard shape in various sizes that can be adjusted to the individual’s mouth by heating and moulding the plastic. This is typically done by boiling the mouthguard and then placing it in the individual’s mouth so that it conforms to the teeth and gum shape of the individual. Fitting a boil and bite mouthguard can be more difficult than it seems, and it may be helpful to ask your dentist for assistance. This is a popular type of mouthguard and provides protection but is less comfortable than a custom made mouthguard.
  3. Custom made Mouthguards – Custom made mouthguards can be made by your dentist. A mouthguard can be custom made by taking an impression of the individual’s teeth and then creating a mouthguard based on the specific gum and teeth structure of the individual. The impression will be taken by a dentist using dental alginate and sent to a dental laboratory to create the mouthguard. Specific adjustments can be made to the mouthguard after fabrication to allow excellent fit. To provide maximum protection, the mouthguard should stretch from molar to molar. Although this is the most expensive type of mouthguard, it should provide maximal protection and comfort to the user as it is fitted specifically for their mouth.

(1)    McCrory (2001). Do mouthguards prevent concussion? British Journal of Sports Medicince 35: 81-82.