Whether you wear braces or not, protecting your smile while playing sports is essential. Mouthguards help protect your teeth and gums from injury. If you participate in any kind of full-contact sport, the American Dental Association recommends that you wear a mouthguard.
What are the types of mouthguards?
A stock mouthguard is the most widely available and affordable type of mouthguard. You can find them at most sporting goods stores and drug stores.
They usually come in small, medium, and large sizes and fit over your teeth. Most stock mouthguards only cover your top teeth.
While stock mouthguards are easy to find and inexpensive, they do have some downsides. Due to their limited size options, they’re usually uncomfortable and don’t provide a tight fit. This can also make it hard to talk while wearing one.
Similar to stock mouthguards, boil-and-bite mouthguards are sold in most drugstores and are relatively inexpensive.
Instead of coming in a few sizes, boil-and-bite mouthguards come in one size that you can customize to fit your teeth. This involves boiling the mouthguard until it softens and then placing it over your front teeth and biting down.
To get the best fit, make sure you follow the instructions that come with it.
You can also get a mouthguard custom-made by your dentist. They’ll take a mold of your teeth and use it to create a mouthguard specifically for the structure of your teeth and mouth.
This provides a much better fit than either a stock or boil-and-bite mouthguard does, which makes them more comfortable and harder to accidentally dislodge while you’re sleeping.
If you grind your teeth, snore, or have sleep apnea, a custom-made mouthguard is your best option. While they’re more expensive than over-the-counter mouthguards, many dental insurance plans cover some or all of the cost.
What type should I use?
While different types of mouthguards look similar to each other, they can have very different functions.
Certain sports and activities carry a high risk of falling or resulting in injuries that can impact your face. A mouthguard can help to protect your teeth and prevent them from injuring your lips or tongue.
It’s especially important to use a mouthguard if you’re involved in any of the following:
- field hockey
- ice hockey
- in-line skating
In most cases, either a stock mouthguard or a boil-and-bite mouthguard is a good choice for protection while you play sports. Stock mouthguards are the least expensive and may be a good option if you only need to wear one occasionally.
While slightly more expensive, boil-and-bite mouthguards offer a better fit, which helps them stay in place. If you participate in high-impact sports, this might be a better option for you.
Teeth grinding and clenching are part of a condition called bruxism, which is a sleep-related movement disorder that can cause a variety of problems, such as tooth pain, jaw pain, and sore gums. It can also damage your teeth.
Wearing a mouthguard while your sleep can help keep your top and bottom teeth separated so they don’t damage each other from the pressure of grinding or clenching.
In most cases, you’ll want a custom-fitted mouthguard for bruxism. Stock mouthguards are hard to keep in place and uncomfortable, which can make it difficult to sleep. While boil-and-bite mouthguards offer a better fit, they become brittle and weak with frequent use.
If you aren’t sure whether you need a mouthguard for bruxism, you can always try a boil-and-bite mouthguard for a few nights. If it seems to help, talk to your dentist about getting a custom guard.
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that causes a person to temporarily stop breathing while asleep. This can prevent your brain from receiving enough oxygen and increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. It can also cause excessive snoring and leave you feeling groggy the next day.
Some people with sleep apnea use a CPAP machine, which keeps your airways open while you sleep. However, if you only have mild sleep apnea, a custom-made mouthguard can provide a similar effect.
Instead of simply covering your teeth, a mouthguard for sleep apnea works by pushing your lower jaw and tongue forward, keeping your airway open. Some types have a strap that goes around your head and chin to re-adjust your lower jaw.
For this purpose, you can skip the stock and boil-and-bite mouthguards, which won’t do anything for your breathing.
Mouthguards can also help to reduce snoring, which happens due to vibrations of soft tissue in your upper airway. They tend to work similarly to mouthguards for sleep apnea. Both types work by pulling your lower jaw forward to keep your airway open.
You’ll find many over-the-counter mouthguards available in stores and online that claim to prevent snoring. However, there hasn’t been much research done on them, and it’s not clear whether they’re actually effective.
If your snoring is interfering with your daily life, talk to your dentist about mouthguard options. They may be able to make you a mouthguard or recommend one that’s worked for their other patients.
How to care for your mouthguard
It’s important to protect your mouthguard from damage and keep it clean since it spends a lot of time in your mouth.
To get the most out of your mouthguard, follow these steps:
- Brush and floss your teeth before putting in your mouthguard.
- Rinse your mouthguard with cool water or mouthwash before putting it in and after taking it out. Avoid using hot water, which can warp its shape.
- Use a toothbrush and toothpaste to clean it after each use.
- Regularly check for holes or other signs of damage, which mean it needs to be replaced.
- Bring your mouthguard to any dentist appointments you have. They can make sure it still fits properly and works.
- Store your mouthguard in a hard container with some ventilation to protect it and allow it to dry out between uses.
- Keep your mouthguard out of reach of any pets, even if the guard is in a container.
Keep in mind that mouthguards don’t last forever. Replace your mouthguard as soon as you start to notice any holes or signs of wear, or every two to three years. You may need to replace stock and boil-and-bite mouthguards more frequently.