Mouthguards aren’t just for hockey.
Sports-related dental injuries ranging from tooth loss to lacerated gums to jaw fractures are common among children and adults and can have long-term consequences. Mouthguards protect against trauma to the teeth, gums, soft tissues, and supporting bones.
Mouthguards are necessary in any sport where there might be a high chance of contact with other participants or hard surfaces. They’re also a good idea for recreational activities, such as skateboarding, in-line skating, and cycling.
Types of mouthguards
A dentist takes an impression of the patient’s mouth and then creates an exact-fitting mouthguard from a cast model of the teeth impression using vacuum- or pressure-formed thermoplastic material. Because they are customized, these mouthguards provide the best fit, protection, and comfort; they are also the most durable.
This mouthguard, generally made of thermoplastic material, must be warmed in very hot water to soften it, so the user can bite into it to create an impression. When moulded within the mouth (or “bitten”), the plastic takes on the shape of the wearer’s mouth; however, the fit is not as precise as that of custom-made mouthguards — and it may be somewhat bulkier. Boil-and-bites come in three sizes: small, medium, and large, and are also sized by age.
Made of rubber or polyvinyl, these mouthguards are held in place by clenching teeth together. As a result, they offer the least amount of comfort, protection, and durability, and are often bulky and loose.
Caring for mouthguards
- Rinse a mouthguard under cold water after every use and air it dry. Like anything else that goes into the mouth, a mouthguard will attract bacteria and should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
- Occasionally clean it with an antiseptic mouthwash. You can also clean it with a toothbrush and toothpaste or cleaning tablets.
- Store a mouthguard in a firm, perforated plastic container and away from extreme heat, as heat can distort it.
- Check the mouthguard regularly for tears or holes (these can irritate the mouth and weaken the mouthguard). If you notice any, replace it immediately.