As the official start of summer quickly approaches and summer sports get into full swing, sports mouthguards might not be something you think of when it comes to equipment unless you or your children are playing football or lacrosse. But believe it or not, a sports mouthguard is equally as crucial for non-contact sports like soccer, skateboarding, BMX riding and volleyball too. It's not uncommon to be hit by a stray ball while playing soccer, to come in contact with concrete ramps while skateboarding or even be hit by a spiked ball while playing volleyball.
When it comes to choosing a mouthguard, not all are created equal, with many different types, levels of protection, sizes and prices. And while our obvious recommendation is to have your mouthguard fit by a professional, like any member of our Guelph team, we understand that there may be reasons you choose to go another route. This article is designed to aid you in choosing you the right mouthguard for your needs no matter if you choose a custom or store-bought mouthguard. We’ll discuss why you should wear a mouthguard, the different types of mouthguards, the benefits of a custom mouthguard and when you should replace your mouthguard.
Why Should You Wear a Mouthguard?
Any sport that involves body contact, falls, high speeds, multiple players or any moving piece of equipment has the potential to cause severe dental damage. And while any player does their best to protect themselves from these situations, accidents will and do happen and it’s important to be as protected as possible.
Mouthguards are intended to be worn over your upper teeth (some models will cover your lower teeth also) and are designed to protect against broken teeth, cut lips, and other dental injuries. And if you wear braces, a mouthguard can also help protect against broken wires and other expensive damage.
While a mouthguard's main job is to protect against damage to your teeth and mouth, many sources also believe they can help protect against concussions— although, not all experts agree.
The Different Types of Mouthguards
There are three main types of sports mouthguards, custom, boil to fit and ready-made, and although they all share similar qualities, they vary significantly in many ways.
As their name suggests, custom-made mouthguards are custom fit to your mouth by your dentist. They start by creating an impression or model of your mouth and then build your mouthguard by moulding the material to the model. Custom mouthguards are available in an array of colours to match any team uniform or player preference, but keep in mind this level of precision and customization does come with a heftier price tag than other types of mouthguards.
Boil to Fit Mouthguards
Boil to fit mouthguards are considered the mid-tier of mouthguards. They offer a better fit than ready-made mouthguards, but aren’t as precise as a custom option. To fit these mouthguards, it requires boiling the mouthguard in water and then biting into it to make an impression of your teeth. Over the years, these types of mouthguards have come a long way in terms of protection and fit. But because of the fitting process, the thickness of the material covering each tooth may not be the same, resulting in a less protective mouthguard. These mouthguards are also available in a variety of colours and if you choose to forgo a custom mouthguard for any reason, we recommend selecting a boil to fit mouthguard as your next best option.
Ready-made mouthguards are an inexpensive option that are pre-formed to a general mouth shape. While they certainly work in a pinch, they typically don't fit well and are uncomfortable. Usually, they are also only available in black or clear colours.
Mouthguards for Braces
For athletes with braces, the risk of dental damage is increased. That being said, there are not nearly as many mouthguard options for these athletes as there are for other athletes. In fact, there is generally only one or two options. And because of all the gaps and holes in the hardware for braces, it’s not possible to make an impression of the teeth and so a custom mouthguard is not an option. The only option for these athletes is a store-bought mouthguard that is specially made for braces. These mouthguards often feature a more flexible grade of rubber or plastic to allow them to form around the braces and are available in a blueish-clear colour.
The Benefits of a Custom Mouthguard
As dentists who treat hundreds of dental emergencies caused by sports each year, we see first-hand the difference a properly fitted mouthguard can make. For that reason, we highly recommend a custom-made mouthguard for athletes both young and old. And while the argument can be made that custom mouthguards for younger players can get quite costly if they need to be replaced with each growth spurt, it’s a small price to pay considering the significant cost of emergency dental work.
A custom mouthguard will offer many benefits over boil to fit and ready-made mouthguards and below are just some of those benefits.
- Increased protection – Custom mouthguards offer the same thickness of protection throughout.
- Precise fit – Custom fit to your mouth, a custom mouthguard will stay in place at all times no matter what situation you find yourself in.
- Better breathing – Because of the improved fit, custom mouthguards can be more streamlined, increasing oxygen flow.
- More colour choices - Custom mouthguards are available in a wide array of colours. You name it, we can most likely match it.
- Extremely comfortable – Thanks to their precise fit, custom mouthguards are incredibly comfortable to wear all game long.
If you’d like to read more about why you should have your mouthguard custom made, check out our past blog post, “3 Reasons to Have Your Mouthguard Custom Made”.
When to Replace Your Mouthguard
Just like other pieces of sports equipment, your mouthguard wears down from continued use. This is why it’s not only essential to know which mouthguard is right for you, but also when to replace a mouthguard.
As a general rule, mouthguards should be replaced every season. This means if you play sports during both the winter and summer, you should be replacing it at the beginning of each sport’s season. And if you play multiple sports during each season, you may want to consider replacing your mouthguard each time you come in for your six-month check-up.
For kids who are continuing to grow, we recommend checking the fit of their mouthguards more often as their teeth and mouth can grow a tremendous amount in a short period— so much so, that their mouthguard may no longer fit after each growth spurt.
Young or old, beginner or professional, no matter who you are, a mouthguard is a vital piece of equipment for most sports. If you have any questions regarding mouthguards or would like to book an appointment to have a mouthguard custom-made for you, contact us or visit our Guelph office and any one of our professional team members would be more than happy to help.