Mouth guards, also known as sports guards or athletic mouth protectors, are crucial pieces of equipment for any child or adult participating in potentially injurious recreational or sporting activities. Fitting snugly over the upper teeth, mouth guards protect the entire oral region from traumatic injury, preserving both the esthetic appearance and the health of the smile.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) advocates for the use of dental mouth guards during any sporting or recreational activity.
The majority of sporting organizations now require participants to routinely wear mouth guards.
What type of mouth guard should I purchase?
Though there are many brands of mouth guards, most brands fall into three categories: (1) stock mouth guards, (2) boil and bite mouth guards, and (3) customized mouth guards.
Some points to consider when choosing a mouth guard include:
How much money is available to spend?
How often does the individual participate in sports?
What type of sport does the individual play? (Basketball and baseball tend to cause the most oral injuries).
In light of these points, here is an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of each type of mouth guard:
Stock mouth guards – These mouth guards can be bought directly off the shelf and immediately fitted into the individual’s mouth. The fit is universal (one-size-fits-all) and is not able to be adjusted. Stock mouth guards are inexpensive, easy to fit, and quick to locate at sporting goods stores. Pediatric and general dentists favor this type of mouth guard least, as it provides minimal protection, obstructs proper breathing and speaking, and tends to be uncomfortable.
Boil and bite mouth guards – These mouth guards are usually made from thermoplastic and also are easily located at most sporting goods stores. First, the thermoplastic must be immersed in hot water to make it pliable, and then it must be pressed on the individual’s teeth to create a custom mold. Boil and bite mouth guards are slightly more expensive than stock mouth guards, but tend to offer more protection, feel more comfortable in the mouth, and allow for easy speech production and breathing.
Customized mouth guards – These mouth guards offer the greatest degree of protection, and are custom-made by the dentist. First, the dentist makes an impression of the indiviual’s teeth using special material, and then the mouth guard is constructed over the mold. Customized mouth guards are more expensive and take longer to fit, but are more comfortable, orthodontically correct, and fully approved by the dentist.