young athlete mouth guardThere a variety of things to consider when choosing a mouth guard for your athlete. It is important to remember that the cost of an athletic mouth guard, regardless of the option chosen to buy, will still cost less than an emergency trip to the dentist to have a tooth reinserted. A mouth guard is an important piece of equipment for athletes in contact sports. This should be another aspect of preventive dentistry for long-term oral health.

Mouth guards have been mandatory in some sports like football and ice hockey since the 1960s. Even though other sports do not have rules requiring mouthguards, there are enough documented cases of children having teeth knocked out across all sports to make wearing one something everyone should do. According to the National Survey of Children’s Oral Health, 68% of American parents and caregivers report their children do not wear a mouth guard at soccer, basketball, baseball, or softball practices and games.

If your athlete is wearing one, how do you know they are wearing the right mouth guard?

4 Types of Athletic Mouth Guards

One-Size-Fits-All

This type of mouth guard is the one you may have received if a team has supplied you or your child with one. This mouth guard stays in place when the athlete bites down on it. If the athlete takes a hit to the face the mouth guard shifts causing the force of the blow to be unevenly distributed amongst the mouth and teeth. This can cause pressure on one side of the mouth or excessive pressure on a tooth or several teeth which is what we want to prevent with a mouth guard.

The one-size-fits-all mouth guard looks like a “U” shaped tray and is the least protective. It is also the most uncomfortable and can cause someone with a small mouth to gag.  This type of mouth guard is the least expensive.

Boil and Bite

The boil and bite mouth guard is a step up from the one-size-fits-all style. This type of mouth guard is purchased over the counter and can be found at drug stores and grocery stores. This mouth guard is not ready to be used straight out of the package and does not adequately distribute the force of any blow to the face evenly throughout the mouth.

After purchase, a boil and bite mouth guard is submerged into hot water and then shaped around the owner’s teeth. These steps may seem easy, but can be hard to do quickly. Once the mouth guard is molded, it cannot be redone. One complaint about this guard is that it can feel bulky or slip out of place easily.

Custom-Made Vacuum-Formed

mouthguard for atheleteA custom-made vacuum-formed mouth guard is made on a vacuum-forming machine under pressure. This results in a customized piece of equipment for the athlete. A positive of this mouth guard is it is more protective than the other two types discussed above. This type of mouth guard will stay in place by wrapping the teeth more tightly than the one-size-fits-all or boil and bite guards. A negative is that vacuum pressure is lower than the pressure-formed mouth guard, and therefore cannot have as many layers of support applied to each other without getting very bulky. The thinner layers may not protect a tooth at a certain angle or with a specific curve as well as a pressure-formed guard can.

Custom-Made Pressure-Formed

Custom-Made Pressure-FormedThis mouth guard is formed similarly to the vacuum-formed mouth guard, but with much higher vacuum pressure applied. This increased pressure allows several layers of material to be applied on top of each other creating the sturdiest mouth guard. It is also the most comfortable guard to wear and offers the best protection to the teeth. You can be fitted for either of the custom-made mouth guards at most dental offices.

When choosing a mouth guard it’s important to remember that protection of the teeth and gums is not equal among the four options. Mouth guards that fit loosely will not protect an athlete who takes a hit as well as a custom-fit guard. A dentist will be able to create a personalized athletic mouth guard that covers all of your teeth snuggly. A custom-made mouth guard will also be more durable because of the materials used.

At Ultimate Smile Design, we are dedicated to the highest standard in quality and ethical dentistry. We always maintain the highest standards in the treatment of patients, infection control, education, dental materials, and technology. Contact us to schedule an appointment for your athletic mouth guard.

Source: Physics of Protection: Athletic Mouthguards-Athletes can help prevent oral trauma through use of a properly fitted appliance by Heidi B. Aaronson, DMD