The cover image for an article stressing on the importance of mouthguards in sports 12 Apr 2024

Picture this: the final seconds tick down, your heart pounds, and you push for that winning shot. Sports have always been a way for people to connect. The teams on the field, the reserve team members, the people watching from the stadiums and from TV, they’re all connected by an electric energy and pure competition. With such energy also comes higher risks to the people involved, as an accident on the playing field can leave you banged up. This is more so the case with contact sports, where bodily damage is a given. Of all the parts of our body, our faces often end up as prime targets for a stray elbow, kick or badly-timed tackle.

Helmets, pads, shin guards are basic protective gear that athletes need to have on them. But an often-forgotten gear that athletes miss out is the mouth guard. As dentists, we cannot recommend enough the importance of mouthguards in protecting your teeth. Which is why we are addressing it here.

A study by the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation found that over 3 million teeth get knocked out each year during sports activities. This point alone should underscore the importance of using mouthguards when playing a sport.

These injuries aren’t just about a chipped tooth or some temporary pain. Cracked or knocked-out teeth can be incredibly expensive to fix, requiring root canals, crowns, or even implants. Not to mention the disruption it can cause to your entire season. 

Mouthguards are designed to fit comfortably in your mouth. They act as a barrier between your teeth and any potential impact. Think of them as shock absorbers, but for your teeth. When a blow comes your way, the mouth guard absorbs the force, distributing it away from your teeth and jaw. This can prevent chips, cracks, and even knockouts.

There are three main categories of mouth guards:

  • Custom-fitted mouth guards: Built by your dentist using a mold of your teeth, they offer the most comfortable and secure fit. Custom-fitted mouth guards are used by athletes in high-contact sports like football, hockey, or lacrosse. While they offer the best protection, they can be quite expensive.
  • Boil-and-bite mouth guards: As the name suggests, these mouth guards mold themselves around your way your teeth are placed inside your mouth. All you have to do is simply boil them in water for a short time, then bite down for them to mold around your teeth. They’re a more affordable option than custom-fitted guards and offer a decent level of protection. However, they might not be as comfortable as custom guards, especially for long wear times.
  • Stock mouth guards:  Found in most sporting goods stores, these pre-formed mouth guards are the most readily available and cheapest option. They aren’t the best option to go for, as they provide the least amount of protection and comfort. They’re not recommended for serious athletes or those with concerns about jaw alignment.

Remember, the key to a mouth guard’s effectiveness is a proper fit.  A loose-fitting guard can slip around, reducing protection and causing irritation.  Conversely, a too-tight guard can be uncomfortable and make it difficult to breathe or speak.

Some custom-designed mouthguards can actually enhance your athletic performance.  That’s because these mouthguards leave your jaw slightly open and improve your breathing due to better oxygen intake. Additionally, custom mouthguards can also help you communicate better on the field.

So, regardless of the sport you play, make mouth guards a regular part of your athletic gear. Wear them during every practice and game, and don’t underestimate their power to protect your smile, potentially prevent head injuries, and even boost your performance.