One of the most important safety equipment tools for athletes is the athletic mouth guard. These devices help to safeguard the mouth and prevent oral injuries while engaging in athletic activity. Simply consider the numerous collisions that occur in a typical football game, and the importance of the mouthguard is evident.
Types of Mouth Guards
Mouth guards are generally divided into three categories. Mouth guards are typically made up of thermoplastic ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), but varying in cost, adaptability, comfort, level of contact with dentist, and safety efficacy.2, 8, 9
This is the most commonly available and least expensive type of mouth guard, available at retail establishments such as department and sporting goods stores, and does not require visits to the dentist. Because it is only available in a limited range of sizes, they require the mouth to be shut to keep it in place, and is not adapted to the user’s mouth, research suggest it is the least effective type of mouth guard.
Mouth-Formed (boil and bite)
These self-adapting mouth guards are designed to soften when placed in hot water, then cooled and placed into the mouth. The product is then adapted to the user’s mouth by bite pressure and manipulation by the tongue and fingers. A dental professional may provide assistance with the final molding, particularly if the user has orthodontic appliances but boil and bite mouth guards are widely available at retail establishments such as sporting goods stores and are generally designed for home use.
Custom mouth guards are fabricated in a dental office or laboratory from individual patient impressions. They provide the best fit, adaptability and efficacy, but are the most expensive option and require dental visits.
Mouth Guards For Athletes With Braces
Mouth guards for athletes with braces are available at retail stores. A mouthguard for braces may be a little more expensive than a regular mouth guard, but is entirely worth the price if it protects your active child’s teeth and soft tissue from damage incurred while playing their favorite sports. Given the expense and complexity of braces, it is recommended to consult your orthodontist.
Maintaining Your Mouth Guard
Even though they keep teeth safe, their potentially dangerous side is often overlooked. In fact, these guards can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, such as staph and strep. Whether your athlete is in high school or college or in a youth league, ensuring that their mouth guard is clean can help keep them healthy.
Both before and after wearing a mouth guard it’s important to both brush and rinse your teeth. Doing this before you put the guard on helps to clean and rid the teeth of any bacteria that remains in the mouth so that it doesn’t spread to the guard. The mouth is always full of bacteria of all forms, the good and the bad. Keeping your mouth clean is the only way to create a healthy balance. Brush and rinse after wearing a mouth guard to rid the mouth of any bacteria that may have been on the guard.
Equally important is the manner in which the athletic mouth guard is stored. It should be stored in a clean container that is moisture-free and has air vents. Regular cleaning of the container helps to prevent the spread of germs, as well. Wash the container using a non-toxic cleaner and warm water and ensure that it is completely dry before placing the mouth guard inside.
It is useful to discourage the habit of chewing on the mouth guard by your young athlete. Although it may seem harmless, chewing on the guard creates tiny holes. These holes can serve as a home for bacteria. Once this harmful bacteria is present, there is very little you can do to prevent it from spreading. A guard that is showing clearly visible signs of wear and tear probably needs to be replaced. It may even be helpful to take the mouth guard along with you to a dental appointment. Allow the dentist to look over it and advise you on whether it’s time for a replacement.
(This article is based on information compiled from a number of sources, including American Dental Association and Colgate)
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about mouthguards. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.