MOUTHGUARDS: WHAT'S PROTECTING YOUR SMILE?
Melanie Mason, MS, ATC, LAT, CSCS; Scott Fleagle, ATC, LAT
UnityPoint Health - Des Moines Athletic Training Services
As football season quickly approaches, one area of protection that athletes often don't think about is their mouth and teeth. Mouthguards come in a variety of types, styles, and colors. Unfortunately, athletes usually pick the mouth guard that looks the "coolest". In this article, we will discuss the reason for using mouth guards, the different types of mouth guards, and the strengths of each type.
Mouthguards provide a cushion that prevents the teeth from being forced against each other in a violent way. They also provide protection from blows by objects and/or other athletes. Guards help prevent injuries to both the teeth, and the surrounding soft tissues of the mouth. They are required in football, but can also be helpful in other contact sports.
Type 1: Stock mouth guards
These mouthguards are the least expensive type. They are meant to be used right out of the package, with no alterations. Stock mouth guards do provide some protection, but not a lot because they aren't fit to each athlete's teeth.
Type 2: Boil and bite mouthguards
Boil and bites are heated in boiling water to soften the material, then placed into the athlete's mouth to form around the upper teeth. The boil and bite guard is inexpensive, convenient, and easy to mold, and provides better protection than stock mouthguards.
Type 3: Custom mouth guards
Custom mouthguards are the most expensive type, but also provide the most comfort and protection. A dentist creates an exact mold of the athlete's teeth. This mold is then used to create a mouth guard that fits perfectly over the athlete's teeth.
When using any type of mouthguard, always make sure that it hasn't been "chewed down" or cut off. Wear the guards as they are intended to be worn, and follow all instructions for wear and care.