Mouthguards are flexible, plastic appliances worn over the teeth helping to prevent accidental trauma during sport to your teeth, mouth, lips, cheeks and tongue. They can also help to prevent other injuries including concussion, jaw fractures and neck injuries. Mouthguards are recommended to be used in any sport where there is a risk of direct contact to the face.
How do mouthguards work?
Mouthguards act like a shock absorber, by spreading the force over a larger area and increasing the time for the peak force to occur. Dissipating the energy of the blow over a larger area and longer time reduces its effect preventing or reducing any injury.
Without a mouthguard, a blow to the lower face sends shock waves through the skull. A direct impact can fracture the front teeth. A blow to the lower jaw can slam the jaws together and the sudden impact of the lower teeth into the back of the upper teeth, can cause a fracture of the upper teeth by punching them forwards.
In some cases, the transmitted forces can lead to a fracture of the lower jaw, or will travel through the jaw joint (TMJ) into the base of the skull causing a concussion.
Custom-fitted mouthguards are made by your dentist, who takes an impression and creates a plaster model of your teeth. Custom-fitting allows your dentist to accurately assess your mouth and provide the best fitting mouthguard that is most appropriate for you. Custom-fitted mouthguards provide a better fit than other varieties, as they are made to suit your individual needs. When made by your dentist, a custom-fitted mouthguard is:
- Allows you to speak clearly
- Won’t shift or fall out
- Won’t restrict your breathing
Over-the-counter (boil and bite) mouthguards
The 'Boil and Bite' mouthguard is a mouthguard that is fitted and formed in the mouth by heat, finger, tongue and biting pressure. Even though they are the most common type of mouthguard used, they have limited protective capacity, can be poorly fitting, giving the athlete a false sense of dental protection and interfere with speech and breathing. They are not recommended as they may be displaced on impact, with the possibility of lodging in the oropharynx, causing a life threatening situation.
It is incorrect to say any type of mouthguard is better than nothing. Only a correctly designed and constructed pressure laminated mouthguard made on models of the athlete's jaws, checked annually will provide the correct protection.
How to care for your mouthguard
- Rinse in cool water
- Dry and store in a rigid container
- Keep your mouthguard in a cool place, they can alter in high temperatures