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The importance of mouthguards

To protect the mouth and teeth from serious injury, a mouthguard, usually a flexible piece of plastic that fits into the mouth, should be worn during all recreational and athletic activities—especially activities where there is contact or potential contact with another person, piece of equipment, or the ground. In particular, mouthguards should be worn during the following sports:

  • Football

  • Basketball

  • Soccer

  • Rugby

  • Wrestling

  • Baseball

  • Softball

  • Lacrosse

  • Field hockey

  • Ice hockey

  • Martial arts

  • Boxing

Some of these sports need the use of a mouthguard at the amateur level.

Many recreational activities, such as skateboarding and bicycling, also pose a risk of injuring the mouth and teeth. Exercise caution during these activities.

Mouthguards and preventable injuries

Injuries to the teeth, mouth, and head may include the following, many of which could be prevented with correct and consistent use of a mouthguard:

  • Dislodged or knocked out teeth

  • Broken or chipped teeth

  • Bitten or cut tongue or lip

  • Objects caught or lodged between the teeth

  • Jaw fracture

  • Jaw collision—the lower jaw gets jammed into the upper jaw

  • Concussion

Types of mouthguards

There are several types of mouthguards that can be used. The following are 3 of the most common types:

  • Premade mouthguards. This type is already made and can be found in most sports stores or pharmacies. There are different types and brands. Choose the one that fits best and is most comfortable.

  • Boil and Bite. Available at sporting goods stores or pharmacies, these mouthguards are softened in hot water, then adapted to the mouth while still soft. Follow the directions on the label carefully.

  • Custom-made mouthguards. Your child's dentist can make a mouthguard specifically for your child. These may be more expensive, but usually are more comfortable for the child.

Ask your child's dentist or healthcare provider about the best type of mouthguard to use. If your child has braces, the dentist may recommend a mouthguard that covers the upper and lower teeth. Clean the mouthguard regularly in cool, soapy water. Then rinse it.