Michael L. Bleeker, DMD
Mouth guards, also known as sports guards or athletic mouth protectors, are crucial pieces of equipment for any athlete 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. In addition, mouth guards are sometimes used to prevent tooth damage in patients who grind (brux) their teeth at night.
How can mouth guards protect your teeth?
The majority of sporting organizations now require that participants routinely wear mouth guards. Though mouth guards are primarily designed to protect the teeth, they can also vastly reduce the degree of force transmitted from a trauma impact point (jaw) to the central nervous system (base of the brain). In this way, mouth guards help minimize the risk of traumatic brain injury.
Mouth guards also reduce the prevalence of the following injuries:
- Cheek lesions
- Gum and soft tissue injuries
- Jawbone fractures
- Lip lesions
- Neck injuries
- Tongue lesions
- Tooth fractures
What type of mouth guard should I use?
Though there are literally thousands of mouth guard brands, most brands fall into three major categories: stock mouth guards, boil and bite mouth guards, and customized mouth guards.
Some points to consider when choosing a mouth guard include:
- How much money is available to spend?
- How often do you play sports?
- What kind of sport do you play? (Basketball, baseball, hockey, martial arts).
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 to your mouth. The fit is universal (one-size-fits-all), meaning that that the mouth guard doesn’t adjust. Stock mouth guards are very cheap, easy to fit, and quick to locate at sporting goods stores. This type of mouth guard provides minimal protection, can obstruct proper breathing and speaking, and tend to be uncomfortable.
Boil and bite mouth guards – These mouth guards are usually made from thermoplastic and 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 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, Dr. Bleeker makes an impression of the teeth and then the mouth guard is constructed over the mold. Customized mouth guards are more comfortable, orthodontically correct, offer the best protection and come in a variety of team colors
If you have questions or concerns about choosing a mouth guard please contact our office.