Mouthguards are used to protect your teeth, cheeks, lips and tongue from injury in many different circumstances. Although they’re most commonly associated with protecting the teeth and mouth of athletes during sporting activities, they are also used to protect teeth from grinding during sleep, to reduce snoring and relieve sleep apnoea.
Dentists recommend using mouthguards during sports and other recreational activities. When used in sports, they cushion the mouth and can reduce the severity of injury to the face and head. Studies show that up to 39% of dental injuries happen during sporting activities!
There are three types of mouthguards: stock mouthguards, boil-and-bite mouthguards and custom-made mouthguards.
Stock mouthguards are the least expensive option and are available at sporting goods and chemist shops. They come in several sizes and are worn over the upper teeth. Stock mouthguards usually won’t fit as well and can be uncomfortable. They provide the least protection because they don’t fit tightly, and can make talking difficult while wearing one.
Boil-and-bite mouthguards are also ready-made devices available at chemist and sporting goods shops. A pre-formed mould is heated until it becomes soft, and the user bites down on the mould to create an impression of the teeth. Although boil-and-bite mouthguards fit better than stock varieties, they are also bulky, and this type of mouthguard is more expensive than stock types.
Custom mouthguards are made specifically for you by a dentist. First, an impression of your teeth is made, and a laboratory fashions a device that is perfectly fitted to your mouth. It is made of special materials that provide more protection, and thickness can be adjusted to suit your needs. Most dentists recommend a thickness of between 3 and 4mm, and custom mouthguards can also be fitted to both the lower and upper teeth, as well as being fitted to be worn comfortably over braces.
Although custom mouthguards are more expensive, they provide the best protection against injury. Wearing a custom-made mouthguard protects the teeth, jaws and neck if an accident happens during sports. Studies have shown that the risk of concussion in athletes using store-bought devices can be up to twice as high as those wearing custom-made mouthguards.
How to Care for a Mouthguard
Your mouthguard should be cleaned before and after each use. Rinse under cool water before using. After removing the device, brush it with a soft toothbrush using mouthwash, toothpaste or soap. Rinse thoroughly, and dry completely. Store it in a container that allows air to circulate. Your dentist should provide an appropriate storage box with air vents.
Be sure to keep your container away from high heat, including direct sunlight, and freezing temperatures. Extremes of temperature may cause warping or cracking. If the mouthguard becomes cracked or worn, let your dentist examine it to make sure it’s still functioning properly.
Be sure to brush your teeth before using a mouthguard. Because the mouthguard fits snugly against teeth, it can trap bacteria and food particles that can cause tooth decay.