Frequently Asked Questions About Sports Mouth Guards

Ever taken a surprise elbow to the face during a heated game or had a close encounter with the ground while making that epic dive? 

That’s where our unsung hero, the sports mouth guard, steps in. 

Sports mouth guards are like a protective shield for those pearly whites, making sure your smile remains as dazzling as your athletic skills!

What is a Sports Mouth Guard?

A sports mouth guard, often called a mouth protector or mouthpiece, is a protective device designed for intraoral use during athletic activities. Picture a thick, cushiony layer that sits snugly over your teeth, particularly the top ones, providing a barrier against potential trauma.

What Injuries Do Sports Mouth Guards Prevent?

The primary objective of sports mouth guards is to shield the teeth, gums, lips, and tongue from any surprise hits, smacks, or collisions when you’re in the middle of a game. 

By dispersing the force from blows or direct hits, mouth guards effectively reduce the likelihood of dental injuries, such as fractured or avulsed teeth.

Beyond just saving your teeth, mouth guards also reduce the risk of more severe injuries, such as jaw fractures.

Who Should Wear a Sports Mouth Guard?

If you’re diving headfirst (sometimes literally) into some action-packed sports, then a mouth guard is your oral safety’s first line of defense.

Here are the athletes who should consider the use of mouth guards as a part of their protective equipment:

  • Football Players: Tackles and fumbles come with the territory.
  • Basketball Players: Elbows fly and bodies collide.
  • Hockey Players: Pucks, sticks, and the ice — there’s a lot that can hit your face!
  • Boxers and MMA Fighters: In these combat sports, oral protection is a primary concern.
  • Lacrosse Players: The sport’s intensity and potential for impact make mouth guards necessary.
  • Rugby Players: This sport is hardcore, and so should your mouth protection be.
  • Wrestlers: The close-contact nature of wrestling poses substantial risks to your oral health.
  • Skateboarders and BMX riders: Wipeouts are part of the game, so best be prepared.
  • Martial Artists: Karate chops and high kicks can be a dental disaster without protection.
  • Baseball and Softball Players: The speed and unpredictability of the ball necessitate the use of mouth guards, especially for certain positions.
  • Skiers and Snowboarders: Accidental tumbles and potential collisions make it wise to wear mouth protection.

While these sports are particularly associated with a higher risk of oral injuries, any athletic activity that involves a risk of falls, contact with other players, or flying equipment should prompt athletes to consider using a mouth guard.

Why Should I Get a Custom-Made Sports Mouth Guard Instead of a Store-Bought One?

Our preferences for custom-made sports mouth guards as opposed to generic, store-bought variants rests on several considerations:

  • Precise Fit: Custom-made mouth guards are tailored to fit the precise contours of your mouth, ensuring optimal comfort.
  • Enhanced Protection: Due to their bespoke fit, custom-made mouth guards provide superior protection against dental injuries compared to their generic counterparts.
  • Durability: Made from high-quality materials, custom guards tend to last longer, offering extended protection over time.
  • Unobstructed Breathing: The exact fit ensures that the guard doesn’t impede airflow, essential for athletes during vigorous activity.
  • Clear Communication: The precise fit allows for clearer speech, which can be crucial during team sports.

How Long Do Sports Mouth Guards Last?

The lifespan of a sports mouth guard largely depends on a variety of factors, including its material quality, the frequency of use, the intensity of the sport, and the care provided to the guard. 

Typically, a sports mouth guard should be replaced at least once a year or sooner if signs of wear are noticeable. This ensures the best protection possible for athletes. 

If you play sports more frequently or with higher intensity, it might be necessary to replace your mouth guard more often. 

In the case of children and adolescents, replacements are frequently needed due to the growth and changes in their oral structure.

The durability of a mouth guard can be extended with proper care. This includes cleaning it after each use, storing it in a protective case, and avoiding exposure to direct sunlight or extreme temperatures.

How to Keep Your Sports Mouth Guard Clean

Maintaining the hygiene of a sports mouth guard is essential not only to extend its lifespan but also to prevent the proliferation of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that could pose health risks. 

Here are some guidelines on how to keep your sports mouth guard clean:

  • Regular Cleaning: After each use, rinse the mouth guard with cold water to remove any debris.
  • Deep Cleaning: At least once a week, or more frequently depending on usage, clean the mouth guard with a toothbrush and non-abrasive toothpaste. This helps remove any accumulated particles and ensures a deep clean.
  • Disinfection: Soak the mouth guard in an antimicrobial solution or a mouthwash for a short duration. Ensure you rinse it thoroughly afterward to remove any residual solution.
  • Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Refrain from using bleach or other abrasive chemicals, as they can degrade the material of the mouth guard and might be harmful if ingested in traces.
  • Dry Properly: After cleaning, allow the mouth guard to air dry completely before storing it to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Storage: Always store the mouth guard in a ventilated case to keep it dry and prevent the growth of microorganisms. Moreover, a hard case provides protection from any potential damage.
  • Regular Inspection: Check the mouth guard for any signs of wear, tear, or damage during cleaning. If any are found, consider replacing it to ensure optimal protection.
  • Avoid Boiling: Unlike the initial fitting process for some mouth guards, it’s not advisable to boil your sports mouth guard repeatedly, as the process can alter its shape and reduce its effectiveness.

What Materials are Sports Mouth Guards Made Of?

Sports mouth guards are crafted from specific materials that possess the necessary properties for durability, malleability, and safety. 

The primary material used for the construction of sports mouth guards is thermoplastic. This material is chosen primarily for its unique characteristic of becoming soft and malleable when heated, allowing it to be easily molded to the precise shape of your teeth and gums. Once the material cools, it retains the molded shape, providing a snugly, customized fit. This approach not only enhances comfort but also ensures that the mouth guard provides effective protection against impacts.

Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) is a commonly used thermoplastic material in the fabrication of sports mouth guards. EVA is favored for its combination of flexibility, toughness, and clarity. It is lightweight and offers excellent cushioning properties, making it ideal for absorbing and distributing the force of blows, thus reducing the risk of dental injuries.

These materials are non-toxic and safe for use in the oral environment. 

How Thick is a Sports Mouth Guard?

The thickness of a sports mouth guard varies based on its design, purpose, and the specific sport for which it is intended.

For many contact sports, a thicker mouth guard, typically ranging from 3 to 5mm, is recommended. This ensures that there is adequate cushioning to disperse the force from a blow, reducing the risk of dental injury. Thicker mouth guards are commonly used in sports like boxing, martial arts, and hockey, where the risk of direct facial contact is high.

However, for non-contact sports or sports with less direct facial contact, a slightly thinner mouth guard might be used, often between 1.5 and 3mm. These thinner guards are more comfortable, making it easier for the athlete to speak and breathe. They are suitable for sports like basketball or baseball, where the primary goal is to protect against accidental contact rather than direct blows.

Custom-made mouth guards vary in thickness across different parts of the guard. For instance, the area over the molars might be thicker for added protection, while the front might be slightly thinner for comfort.

Can I Get a Sports Mouth Guard With Braces?

Yes, patients with braces can, and should, get a sports mouth guard. 

Braces and other orthodontic appliances can injure the lips and cheeks during impacts. A mouth guard can help protect against such injuries.

In addition to protection against soft tissue injuries, a mouth guard also safeguards the braces themselves. Impact during sports can damage brackets or dislodge wires, leading to potentially costly repairs and extended treatment times.

Choose a custom-made mouth guard specifically designed by a dental professional to accommodate braces. These mouth guards are usually made of a more pliable material and are designed to fit over the braces without applying excessive pressure on them. They provide a barrier between the braces and the soft tissues of the mouth, reducing the risk of cuts and abrasions.

How Do Sports Mouth Guards and Night Guards Differ?

Sports mouth guards and night guards serve distinct purposes and are designed to address different concerns, though they both fall under the category of protective oral devices.

A sports mouth guard is primarily designed to protect the teeth, gums, lips, and tongue from trauma during physical activities, particularly contact sports.

On the other hand, a night guard is tailored for patients who grind or clench their teeth, a condition known as bruxism. The night guard acts as a barrier between the upper and lower teeth, preventing direct contact and the associated wear and tear. Made from a softer material than sports mouth guards, night guards offer comfort for overnight wear. They can be designed for either the upper or lower teeth, depending on the orthodontist’s assessment and the patient’s preference.

How Much Does a Sports Mouth Guard Cost?

The cost of a sports mouth guard varies depending on several factors, including the type of mouth guard, location, and manufacturing technique:

  • Over-the-counter mouth guards: Readily available at most sporting goods stores or pharmacies. They come in a limited range of sizes, typically categorized as “youth” or “adult.” Over-the-counter mouth guards are generally the most affordable option, with prices ranging from $5 to $50.
  • Custom-made mouth guards: Created by dental professionals based on an impression of your teeth to ensure a precise fit. The materials used for custom mouth guards are of high quality, and the fit is often superior to over-the-counter options. Due to the customization and materials involved, these mouth guards tend to be more expensive, typically ranging from $100 to $500.
  • Dental clinics and orthodontic practices: Prices can vary depending on location, reputation of the clinic, and materials. Dental insurance does not cover the cost of sports mouth guards unless they are deemed medically necessary. However, some dental plans might offer discounts or partial coverage, so it’s worth checking with your provider.
  • Specialized features: Some mouth guards come with added features, such as straps, logos, or designs, or are made from specialized materials that can further increase the price.