With both the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the NBA Finals in progress, this week we are going to talk about a very important piece of sportswear that can protect your teeth… a mouthguard!

Whether it’s a little league, high school, professional sports, or just an organized activity, a sports guard should be worn if there is a risk of being hit in the mouth or jaw area. The National Youth Sports Foundation for the Prevention of Athletic Injuries, Inc. reports the most common type of injury sustained during participation in sports is orofacial.  A mouth guard can help by protecting against fractured or chipped teeth, loss of teeth, and harm to the bone or root. This can save you a lot of money in the long run by preventing the need for extensive dental treatments.

Let’s take a look at how a mouthguard works, the risks of not wearing a mouthguard, and the types of mouthguards that are available so you can see why it’s extremely important for people to wear mouthguards while taking part in any physical activity.

How Do Mouthguards Work?

Mouthguards are like airbags – they serve to absorb the shock of the collision, and to disseminate the pressure around the material of the mouthguard, instead of your teeth and jaws. By absorbing and dissipating facial impacts, mouthguards can significantly reduce the chances of incurring a mouth injury.

Close up of a mouth inserting a mouthguard

 

What Can Happen If I Don’t Wear A Mouthguard?

A direct impact to the front of your face with no mouthguard can fracture your front teeth, or even knock one or more of them out. A hit to your lower jaw can make your jaws collide together, not only putting a huge amount of pressure on your teeth, which can cause cracks and breaks, but it can also cause jaw fractures, damage to your TMJ joint, and can also result in a concussion.

For kids, sports injuries account for almost 40% of dental trauma.

 

Types of Mouthguards and How They Stack Up Against Each Other:

Ready-Made Mouthguards

PROS: Ready-made mouthguards are typically very inexpensive, usually $10 or less and can be purchased at any sporting goods store. That means they are relatively cheap to replace if you lose it. Some type of mouthguard is better than not having a mouthguard at all!

CONS: Chances are also pretty high that you will lose or misplace this type of mouthguard, because, as with any one-size-fits-all item, “fit” is a comparative word. These foamy, bulky mouthguards may work and diffuse some of the impact of a hit, but only if you want to wear it. This type is not fitted to your mouth and is likely to fall out or come loose when you are active. They can be hard to breathe around, and they are also less durable and need to be replaced more often.

 

Mouth-Formed (Boil and Bite) Mouthguards

PROS: These are by far the most common mouthguards we see. They are still affordable at around $15-20. These are fitted to your teeth by placing the mouthguard in very hot water and then biting into it firmly. The chances of this type of mouthguard falling out when you are active are less than a ‘ready-made’ one, and if you are more likely to wear it, it is more likely to protect you from tooth trauma.

CONS: Boil and bite mouthguards are still bulky and can be hard to breathe around or speak while wearing. This means you are constantly taking it out of your mouth, you’re more likely to lose it. Boil and bite mouthguards will need to be replaced more often than a custom fitted mouthguard. Finally, although they are fitted better because of the teeth impressions, there is still a greater chance that it can come loose, reducing its effectiveness, which means you could end up out $20 and missing your front tooth.

 

Custom Dentist Fitted Mouthguards

PROS: Custom-fitted mouthguards are the best option when it comes to protection against tooth and mouth trauma. In fact, a study confirmed that custom-fitted mouthguards can reduce your chances of concussion by more than 50%. Custom-fitted mouthguards are exactly that – made to not only fit snugly over your teeth but also into your mouth. Many athletes who use this kind of mouthguard notice that is has a very low profile effect in their mouths, which means it is much easier to breathe and speak around. A great fit means you’re less likely to take it out or misplace it. Custom-fitted mouthguards are also very durable, can be disinfected easily, and you can often custom-order yours with colors or logos.

CONS: By far the cost of a custom-fitted mouthguard is the deal breaker for most. At around $300, most people don’t see the value, unless they are looking back in regret after they are dealing with medical or dental bills because of a broken tooth. However, many people who have custom mouthguards wouldn’t go back to any other kind, once they realize the kind of protection they can get in a way that does not impede their performance. Custom-fitted mouthguards can also take up to 2 weeks to receive because impressions are made at a dental office and the custom piece is made offsite.

The bottom line is that mouthguards are a necessity when you are partaking in any kind of physical activity… so if you want to protect your teeth like Stephen Curry, Ryan Kesler, and LeBron James all you have to do is wear a mouthguard!