There are three types of mouth guards:
Stock mouth protectors are preformed and come ready to wear. They are
inexpensive and can be bought at most sporting good stores and department
stores. However, little can be done to adjust their fit, they are bulky and
make breathing and talking difficult and they provide little or no protection.
Dentists do not recommend their use.
Boil and bite mouth protectors also can be bought at many sporting
goods stores and may offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. The
“boil and bite” mouth guard is made from thermoplastic material. It is
placed in hot water to soften, then placed in the mouth and shaped around the
teeth using finger and tongue pressure.
Custom-fitted mouth protectors are individually designed and made in
a dental office or a professional laboratory based on your dentist’s
instructions. First, your dentist will make an impression of your teeth and a
mouth guard is then molded over the model using a special material. Due to the
use of the special material and because of the extra time and work involved,
this custom-made mouth guard is more expensive than the other types, but it
provides the most comfort and best fit and protection.
Generally, mouth guards cover your upper teeth only, but in some instances
(such as if you wear braces or another fixed dental appliance on your lower
jaw), your dentist will make a mouth guard for the lower teeth as well. Your
dentist can suggest the best mouth guard for you. An effective mouth guard
should be comfortable, resist tears, be durable and easy to clean, and should
not restrict your breathing or speech.
Who Needs a Mouth Guard?
Mouth guards should be used by anyone — both children and adults — who play
contact sports such as football, boxing, soccer, ice hockey, basketball,
lacrosse, and field hockey. However, even those participating in noncontact
sports (for example, gymnastics) and any recreational activity (for example,
skateboarding, mountain biking) that might pose a risk of injury to the mouth
would benefit from wearing a protective mouth guard.
Adults and children who grind their teeth at night should have a nocturnal
bite plate or bite splint made to prevent tooth damage.
Why Use a Mouth Guard When Playing Sports?
Because accidents can happen during any physical activity, the advantage of using a mouth guard is that it can help limit the risk of mouth-related injuries to your lips, tongue, and soft tissues of your mouth. Mouth guards also help you avoid chipped or broken teeth, nerve damage to a tooth or even tooth loss.
Can I Wear a Mouth Guard if I Wear Braces?
Yes. Since an injury to the face could damage orthodontic brackets or other
fixed appliances, a properly fitted mouth guard may be particularly important
for people who wear braces or have fixed bridge work. Your dentist or
orthodontist can determine the mouth guard that will provide the best
protection for your unique mouth work. An important reminder: do not wear any
retainers or other removable appliance during any contact sports or during any
recreational activities that put your mouth at risk for injury.
What causes tooth decay?
How Do I Care for My Mouth Guard?
To care for your mouth guard:
- Rinse your mouth guard with cold water or with a mouth rinse before and
after each use and/or clean it with toothpaste and a toothbrush.
- Occasionally clean the mouthguard in cool, soapy water and rinse it
- Place the mouth guard in a firm, perforated container to store or transport
it. This permits air circulation and helps to prevent damage.
- Protect the mouth guard from high temperatures — such as hot water, hot
surfaces, or direct sunlight — to minimize distorting its shape.
- Occasionally check the mouth guard for general wear. If you find holes or
tears in it or if it becomes loose or causes discomfort, replace it.
- Bring the mouth guard to each regularly scheduled dental visit to have your
dentist exam it.
Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland
Clinic Department of Dentistry.
Reviewed by Harold Burstein, PhD, MD, on May 1, 2005
Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson Mathis, MD, on May 1, 2005
Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic