Sports Dentistry

Dental injuries are the most common type of injury to the face and many dental injuries can be prevented. In the United States, five million teeth are knocked out each year, mainly the front teeth! About one of every three dental injuries each year is due to sports-related accidents when athletes are not wearing mouth protection. Mouth guards also protect the lips, cheeks, and tongue. They can also assist in protecting children from head and neck injuries such as concussions and jaw fractures.

Commonly Asked Questions about Mouthguards

What is a mouthguard?

A mouthguard is a flexible appliance made out of plastic that is worn in athletic and recreational activities to protect the teeth from trauma.

Why should one wear a mouthguard?

To protect the mouth from injuries. The dental profession unanimously supports the use of mouthguards in a variety of sports activities. More than 200,000 injuries to the mouth and jaw occur each year.

Do mouthguards prevent Injuries?

A mouthguard can prevent serious injuries such as concussions, unconsciousness, cerebral hemorrhages, jaw fractures, and neck injuries by helping to avoid situations where the lower jaw gets jammed into the upper jaw. Mouthguards are effective in moving soft tissue in the oral cavity away from the teeth, preventing laceration and bruising of the lips and cheeks, especially for those who wear orthodontic appliances.

In what sports should I wear a mouthguard?

Anytime there's a strong chance for contact with other participants or hard surfaces, it is advisable to wear a mouthguard. Players who participate in basketball, softball, wrestling, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, in-line skating, and martial arts as well as recreational sports such as skateboarding and bicycling should wear mouthguards.

Currently, five sports at the amateur level require mouthguards during practice and competition: boxing, football, ice hockey, men's lacrosse, and women's field hockey.

What are the different types of mouthguards?

Stock mouthguard: The lowest cost option is a stock item, which offers the least protection because the fit adjustment is limited. It may interfere with speech and breathing because this mouthguard requires that the jaw be closed to hold it in place. A stock mouthguard is not considered acceptable as a facial protective device.

Mouth-formed protectors: These mouthguards come as a shell-liner and “boil-and bite” product. The shell is lined with acrylic or rubber. When placed in an athlete's mouth, the protector's lining material molds to the teeth and is allowed to set. The lining of the “boil-and-bite” mouthguard is immersed in boiling water for ten to 45 seconds, transferred to cold water and then adapted to the teeth. The “boil-and-bite” mouthguard is used by more than 90 percent of athletes who use mouthguards. While they are less expensive than custom-made guards, the fit is not as good and they do not last as long.

Custom-made mouth protectors: The best choice is a mouthguard custom-made by the dentist. It offers the best protection, fit and comfort level because it is made from a cast to fit your teeth.

How should one care for a mouthguard?

  • Clean the mouthguard by washing it with soap and warm (not hot) water.
  • Before storing, soak the mouthguard in mouthwash.
  • Keep the mouthguard in a well-ventilated plastic storage box when not in use. Make sure the box has several holes so the mouthguard will dry.
  • Heat is bad for mouthguards, so don't leave it in direct sunlight or in a closed automobile.
  • Don't bend the mouthguard when storing.
  • Don't handle or wear someone else's mouthguard.