Sports Mouthguard: Protect Your Teeth, Braces & Lips

Dr. Matthew Hannan | My Dental Advocate
Author: Matt Hannan, DDS
Updated: July 20, 2023
Boy With Mouthguard | Sports Mouthguard: Protect Your Teeth, Braces & Lips | My Dental Advocate

According to Sports Health, approximately 30 million children and adolescents are involved in sports annually in the United States, and the impact of dental injuries can be significant.

Every year, more than 5 million teeth are knocked out in the United States, accruing nearly $500 million in care costs. In addition, treating an avulsed tooth over a lifetime is between $5,000 and $20,000.

Mouthguards are essential equipment to prevent dental injuries and expensive dental treatment. The mouthguard’s role is to shield the teeth from a direct blow leading to fractured or knocked-out teeth; ouch! What should be done if this occurs?

This article answers common questions about sports mouthguards, why they are critical and proper care and maintenance. Refer to The Ultimate Dental Trauma Guide for further information on managing dental sports injuries from a dentist’s perspective.

Recommended Reading: Five Qualities of a Great Dentist

What is a sports mouthguard?

Sports mouthguards come in all shapes and sizes and serve two roles. First, it protects your teeth from direct impact with an object such as an elbow, ball, puck, or stick. Second, it shields your teeth from impact leading to tooth fracture, jaw fracture, or concussion.

Most sports mouthguards encapsulate the upper teeth and fit within the confines of the lips. In addition, some sports mouthguards feature a lip guard that protects the soft tissues of the lip.

Related: Learn more about Oral Appliances

Who needs a sports mouthguard?

Sports mouthguards are recommended for any adult or child participating in contact sports such as football, basketball, soccer, baseball, lacrosse, hockey, etc. Also, consider wearing a mouthguard if you’re participating in any extreme sport such as skateboarding, rollerblading, mountain biking, or BMX riding. If you find yourself clenching or grinding your teeth at night or during the day, consider wearing a nightguard to prevent irreversible harm to your teeth.

Types of sports mouthguards

Custom-fit mouthguards provide the most accurate fit and comfort for your teeth. Teeth and arch sizes range in every individual, so it’s vital to wear a mouthguard that fits your mouth best. Ill-fitting mouthguards can rub lips and cheeks, leading to sore spots or being overextended, leading to a gag response.

  1. Stock mouthguards are pre-formed and unable to be molded or adjusted. Often the fit is irregular and provides inadequate protection for your teeth and lips. Also, poor-fitting mouthguards can make it difficult to talk and breathe. These mouthguards are available for purchase at most sporting-goods stores; however, we do not recommend this type of mouthguard.
  2. Boil & bite mouthguards can also be purchased at your local sporting-goods store and feature thermoplastic material that forms to your teeth after softening material in boiling water. These mouthguards require a small amount of patient compliance but adequately protect your teeth and gums. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to adapt the mouthguard to your mouth’s teeth, lips,
    and roof.
  3. Custom-fit mouthguards provide essential dental protection because of their superior fit and comfort. These mouthguards are the most expensive; however, it gives your teeth the best protection from injury. They are individually designed at your dentist and will be sent to a dental laboratory for expert fabrication. Lastly, these mouthguards allow the user to talk and breathe the easiest.

Wearing a mouthguard with braces

Suppose you wear braces or another orthodontic appliance; wearing a mouthguard to protect the appliance from damage during impact and protect your teeth, gums, and lips from the sharp wires on the appliance is essential. Consult your dentist or orthodontist regarding what type of mouthguard is best for your situation.

Occasionally, your orthodontist may recommend wearing a lower mouthguard to protect the appliance on your lower teeth. Lastly, Invisalign should not replace a mouthguard during combat sports. Although the Invisalign will keep your teeth aligned, there’s not enough material to prevent damage to your teeth.

Best boil & bite mouthguard

Shock Doctor is a leader in mouthguard technology, innovation, and performance. Their products are available in 10,000+ retail stores and are worn by hundreds of professional and collegiate athletes. In addition, they offer a variety of models, including classic, slim fit, and mouthguards for braces.

Classic model features:

  • Low profile fit
  • Triple-layer design
  • Breathing channels
  • Quick-release tether strap
  • Latex and BPA-free
  • Dental warrenty

Do mouthguards prevent concussions?

Sports-related concussions are a significant public health concern. People have become increasingly aware of the correlation between player safety and concussion risk. For example, the NFL has imposed strict rule changes to minimize impacts on the players’ heads. Also, helmet technology has drastically improved and become a multi-million dollar industry in developing superior equipment.

However, the jury is still out regarding the effectiveness of preventing concussions. One particular research article shows a 49% decrease in concussion odds, whereas another meta-analysis article concludes there was no correlation between mouthguard use and decreasing concussions.

Mouthguard care and maintenance

Proper fitting mouthguards are essential to provide necessary protection from sports injuries. Mouthguards showing wear and tear signs should be replaced as soon as possible. Also, an ill-fitting mouthguard may occur because adolescents hit multiple growth spurts. As their mouth changes in size, replace their mouthguard accordingly. Also, bring their mouthguard into the dental office so the dentist can confirm it still fits to form.

Helpful tips:

  • Protect your mouthguard in a sturdy case between uses
  • Keep it clean and dry to prevent bacteria formation
  • Rinse mouthguard before and after use
  • Clean the mouthguard regularly with a toothbrush and soft hand soap
  • Never leave your mouthguard in direct sunlight, as it will warp
  • Regularly check fit and for any signs of wear
  • Occasionally bring it to your dentist for evaluation
  • Keep it out of reach of pets to prevent damage

My Experience & Expertise

Sports-related injuries are common during competitive contact sports. Is it possible to decrease the risk of oral injuries when wearing a mouthguard? Many research articles suggest that. With so many great products available, get in the game and find one that fits you to prevent painful and costly dental injuries.

Knowledge is power when cultivating healthy dental habits. The more informed you are, the better positioned you’ll be to prevent avoidable and potentially costly dental procedures for you and your family. Watch for future blog posts, where we’ll continue sharing important information, product reviews and practical advice!