The importance of mouthguards is highlighted by statistics on sports injuries, which show that these plastic or laminate devices are essential for adults and children who take part in sport at any level.

Many people in the U.S. lose teeth through sports-related accidents that could have been avoided by wearing a mouthguard. The American Dental Association (ADA) estimates that a third of all dental damage is sports-related.

Mouthguards prevent thousands of injuries every year. They don’t just protect your teeth. They also help to keep your jaw, tongue, and cheeks safe, and lessen the danger of concussion.

Sport-related oral trauma accounts for 600,000 emergency room visits a year. This is why some sporting organizations make mouthguards mandatory. The importance of mouthguards is further underlined by studies that show:

  • Three-quarters of high school sports injuries could be prevented by mouthguards.
  • Nearly half of these mishaps happen during basketball and baseball.
  • Nine percent of all athletes sustain oral damage.
  • Three percent report loss of consciousness.
  • More than half of all concussions occur in the absence of mouthguards.
  • Five million people in the U.S. lose teeth in sports-related injuries every year.
  • Two million youngsters suffer sports-related tooth loss each year.

When and Why Mouthguards are Indispensable

Dental trauma is the most common type of facial injury in sports. Yet the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) reports that 84 percent of youngsters do not wear mouth protectors for organized games. In high school sports, basketball sees the most dental injuries. The ADA and the International Academy of Sports Dentistry (IASD) recommend mouthguards for basketball and a host of other sports, including:

  • Football.
  • Soccer.
  • Rugby.
  • Volleyball.
  • Baseball.
  • Martial arts.
  • Ice hockey and field hockey.
  • Lacrosse.
  • Water polo.
  • Boxing.
  • Gymnastics.

Mouthguards can protect you from emergencies such as:

  • Broken teeth.
  • Tooth root damage.
  • Fractured crowns or bridgework.
  • Cheek and lip injuries.
  • Fractured jaws.
  • Concussion.

Are There Different Types of Mouthguards?

There are three types of mouthguards:

Ready-to-wear. These cheap mouth shields are available from many sport equipment stores. However, they are not recommended by dentists, who say these mouth protectors are bulky, impair breathing and speech, and afford little or no real protection.

Thermoplastic mouthguards. These mouth shields are also available from sports goods stores and are designed to fit better than ready-to-wear mouth protectors. They are made pliable in hot water and shaped around the teeth with finger and tongue pressure.

Custom-fitted. Customized mouthguards are made by dental professionals from an impression of the teeth. They are more expensive than the other types of mouth protectors but are more comfortable and provide the best protection.

Advantages of Customized Mouthguards

The American Dental Association says the best mouthguards are those made by dentists and adds that they should be part of standard sports kit from an early age to reduce the severity and number of sports-related dental injuries.

Ready-to-wear and thermoplastic mouthguards can wear out after a few months. Custom-fitted mouth shields generally last a year or more, while keeping their shape. They also afford extra protection where needed. Dr. McRae adds that custom-fitted mouthguards are also a lot more comfortable to wear than nonfitted mouthguards.

Other advantages of a customized mouthguard include:

  • Secure and comfortable fit.
  • No hindrance to speech or breathing.
  • No bad odor or taste.
  • Damage resistance.
  • Ease of cleaning.

How Are Custom Mouthguards Made?

To put together a customized mouth shield, a dentist will make a mold of your teeth and send it to a lab specializing in oral devices, where the mouthguard will be crafted from material specified by the dentist.

Custom-made mouthguards typically cover the upper teeth only. However, in some cases, they can be designed to protect the lower teeth as well. Some custom mouth shields consist of a rigid outer layer and a soft inner lining for comfort.

Why Your Child Should Wear a Mouthguard

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 50 percent of injuries during sport and recreational activities each year are sustained by children as young as five years old.

Youngsters who fail to use mouth shields are 60 times more likely to suffer dental trauma, says the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF).

Studies by the American Association of Orthodontists suggest that eight in 10 children don’t wear a mouthguard during organized sports.

Other research indicates that mouthguards prevent more than 200,000 high school and college injuries a year.

Why You Need a Customized Mouthguard

If you play sports, a mouth shield to absorb the shock of an impact can play a crucial role in significantly reducing the risk of dental trauma and head and neck injuries.

For a mouthguard to work, it must fit properly. Unlike store-bought mouthguards, a professionally-made mouth protector designed specifically for your mouth will fit flawlessly and without any discomfort.

Investing in a custom-made mouthguard can save you money in the long run. The expense of treatment for a fractured tooth is much higher than that of a professional-standard mouthguard.

Several factors need to be considered when choosing a mouthguard, including the level of impact involved in the sport you play. A dentist experienced in fitting mouthguards will be able to explain your options and offer advice tailored to your specific needs.

If you have a youngster who wears fixed braces, a professionally-fitted mouth protector is particularly important to prevent injuries.

Like braces, mouth shields need to be kept clean – use a toothbrush and toothpaste and rinse well with cool water after each use.

Importance of Mouthguards to Combat Teeth Grinding

Besides providing protection from sporting injuries, mouthguards can also help to prevent damage from teeth grinding (bruxism), which affects 30 million adults and children in the U.S.

Teeth grinding happens most often during sleep. It can be caused by:

  • Stress.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Sleep disorders.

Wearing a mouth protector like a night guard is the most effective way to combat teeth grinding while you sleep.