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The mouth is the most injured area of the body during contact sports. The injuries can be painful, costly, and permanent. Therefore, any athlete, from Olympian to kids playing hockey on the street, should wear a mouthguard as well as a helmet or headgear.
What is a mouthguard?
A mouth guard is an appliance worn in the mouth that helps prevent injuries to the teeth, lips, cheeks, tongue, and jaw. It should be worn in addition to protective headgear that also protects against injuries to the head and neck.
Choosing a mouthguard:
There are three types of mouthguards that you may choose from.
- Stock or ready-made mouthguards: These are the least expensive type and can be bought at most sports stores. They are also the least satisfactory. Although they come in many different shapes and sizes, little can be done to adjust the stock mouthguard to fit your mouth. Many athletes complain that they are too bulky, loose, uncomfortable, and often interfere with breathing and speaking.
- Mouth-formed/self-adapted mouthguards: These are still relatively inexpensive and are available at most sports stores. They are molded to fit each individual mouth by boiling the mouthpiece in water and then biting into the warm plastic. They can be refitted if not properly made on the first try. This type of mouthguard can also feel bulky and can cause difficulty with breathing and speaking.
- Custom-made mouthguards: This is the most highly recommended type of mouthguard. It is made at a dental office or dental hygiene office where it is individually designed and constructed by a dental professional. It is more expensive than the other types but it has an exceptionally good fit. It is comfortable and causes less of a problem with speech or breathing.
What to look for in a mouthguard:
A mouthguard should:
- provide maximum protection from a traumatic force
- remain in place during sports activity
- not significantly interfere with breathing or speech
- be comfortable to wear
- be easy to clean
Caring for your mouthguard:
- rinse under cold water after each use
- occasionally clean your mouthguard in a solution of soap and cool water
- store it clean and dry in a container that will prevent it from being damaged or soiled
- like any other sports gear, mouthguards can tear or wear out; therefore, replace them as necessary