Mouthguards protect teeth from injury

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Carlos Diaz-LaBoy
  • 95th Dental Flight
A mouthguard is worn in athletic and recreational activities to protect teeth from trauma. The dental profession unanimously supports the use of mouthguards in a variety of sports activities. 

A mouthguard can prevent serious injuries such as broken teeth, jaw fractures, cerebral hemorrhage and neck injuries by helping to avoid the lower jaw from getting jammed into the upper jaw. Mouthguards are effective in moving soft tissue in the oral cavity away from the teeth, preventing laceration and bruising of the lips and cheeks, especially for those who wear orthodontic appliances. They may also reduce the severity and incidence of concussions. 

Anytime there is a strong chance for contact with other participants or hard surfaces, it is advisable to wear a mouthguard. Players, who participate in basketball, softball, football, wrestling, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, in-line skating and martial arts, as well as recreational sports such as skateboarding and bicycling, should wear mouthguards while competing. Some schools reinforce the health advantage of mouthguards for their contact sports.

A properly fitted mouthguard will stay in place while you are wearing it, making it easy for you to talk and breathe. The three types of mouthguards are stock mouth guards, boil and bite mouth guards and custom-made mouthguards. 

Stock mouth protectors are inexpensive, pre-formed and ready to wear. They are available at most sporting goods stores. Unfortunately, they don't always fit very well, they can be bulky and can make breathing and talking difficult. 

Boil and bite mouthguards can also be bought at most sporting goods stores and may offer a better fit than stock mouthguards. They should be softened in boiling water, then inserted and allowed to adapt to the shape of your mouth. To ensure a proper fit, ask for assistance from a dentist. 

Custom-fitted mouthguards are made by dentists. They cost more than the other choices, but they offer a better fit than anything bought in stores. Athletes who have braces or fixed bridge work should consider custom-fitted mouthguards.

The following are tips on how to take care of your mouthguards:

  • Clean your mouthguard by washing it with soap and cool water.
  • Before storing, soak your mouthguard in mouthwash.
  • Keep your mouthguard in a well-ventilated, plastic storage box when not in use. Make sure the box has several holes so the mouthguard will dry.
  • Heat is bad for a mouthguard, so don't leave it in direct sunlight or in a closed automobile.
  • Don't bend your mouthguard when storing.
  • Don't handle or wear someone else's mouthguard.
For more information, call the dental clinic at 277-2872.