Sports injuries to the mouth are well documented. Teeth can be knocked out or chipped while playing sports. According to an article in the Journal of the American Dental Association approximately 1/3 of all dental injuries occurs as a result of a sports injury. Also, it should be noted that about one in six sports-related injuries is to the cranio-facial area. Although dental injuries are typically associated with contact sports such as football or hockey, oral injury is also common in activities such as basketball, soccer, gymnastics, in-line skating, bicycling and other sports.
Mouthguards can provide significant protection to athletes participating in both contact and non-contact sports. A properly fitted mouthguard can greatly reduce injury to the oral area.
There are three types of mouthguards available.
- Ready made, or stock mouthguards – a thermoplastic tray that fits loosely over the teeth. It is an inexpensive option and ready to wear. It is sold in a variety of sizes and can be purchased at sporting goods and drug stores. This type of mouthguard requires that the wearer’s mouth be closed to provide any protection which can interfere with breathing and speaking. For these reasons, this mouthguard is considered by many to be less protective.
- Mouth-formed mouthguards – the boil and bite type is the most readily available. It is typically a standard tray of thermoplastic material. It is formed by heating in hot water briefly and then cooling it before placing in the mouth for shaping. This is a low cost option, but it does have some limitations not seen in a custom mouthguard. For example, studies have found that these mouthguards can become dangerously thin in critical areas during formation, losing some of their occlusal thickness. Self-adapted mouthguards often have a loose fit. Often these can be worn over orthodontic appliances. Speak to your orthodontist about this.
- Custom-made mouthguards – are custom made for each individual. They are form fitted and designed by a dentist and made in a professional laboratory. They can be customized not only for fit but in colors to support your team! Although these are the most expensive option, they generally provide better fit which leads to more comfortable wear. If the mouthguard is comfortable and allows talking and breathing it is much more likely to be worn. A mouthguard not worn serves no purpose and offers no protection!