Give yourself a big old smile in the mirror. You can see that beautiful, complete set of teeth. Now, imagine that same smile with one or more of those teeth missing. Consider how challenging it would become to talk or eat without some of your teeth.

While smiles with teeth missing are adorable in children around six that’s mostly because we know what’s coming in behind that set of baby teeth. However, as a teenager or adult losing a tooth or multiple teeth isn’t quite as charming. That’s why as dentists we recommend the use of a mouthguard for anyone who participates in organized sports or other recreational activities

What Do Mouthguards Do?

Mouthguards are primarily used for the purpose of protecting the mouth. They’re designed to go over the top row of your teeth and help minimize the risk of broken teeth and other injuries to the soft tissues in the mouth (lips, gums, tongue) by cushioning the blow from any direct impact.

When Should You Wear a Mouthguard

While mouthguards are most commonly used for contact sports like football and boxing, it’s often overlooked in non-contact sports. Sports like weight lifting and others can result in significant teeth clenching. As a result, mouthguards are recommended for anyone who participates in organized sports.

In addition, individuals who are currently wearing braces should strongly consider a mouthguard. In addition to protecting your brackets from damage it will also provide a barrier between the braces and your cheek and lips which can help prevent injuries to those areas of your mouth.

Choosing a Mouthguard

There are a number of options for mouthguards on the market today and they all fall into three categories – custom made, boil and bite, and stock.

Custom made mouthguards are by far the best option for athletes. This type is custom made to fit your mouth and your teeth. An impression of your mouth is taken and then a mouthguard is made to fit those exact specifications. While these are the best option, they are also the most expensive. If you cannot afford a custom-made mouthguard there are other options available to you.

Boil and bite mouthguards are exactly what they sound like. A mouthguard is purchased and then you boil it in hot water and place it inside your mouth and bite down. The warm mouthguard will then adapt to the shape of your mouth.

Stock mouthguards are the least expensive option on the market and typically come pre-formed and ready to wear. While definitely a better option than not wearing a mouthguard, the stock versions don’t often fit well as they come pre-formed and ready to wear. This can make it an uncomfortable fit for some athletes and may also make it more difficult to breathe and talk while wearing it.

Caring For Your Mouthguard

As with anything else that’s used for athletics, you’ll want to ensure that you’re taking care of your mouthguard. Especially since the mouth is the gateway into the entire body and typically contains a high number of bacteria. When it comes to the proper care of your mouthguard we recommend the following:

Cleaning –

After every use clean your mouthguard either by brushing it with a toothbrush and toothpaste or rinsing it in clean water. In addition, clean it often with cold, soapy water and then rinse it off thoroughly.

Storage –

To ensure that your mouthguard doesn’t get lost or damaged, store it in a sturdy container. Make sure that the storage container has vents so that your mouthguard can dry and to ensure bacteria doesn’t begin to form on it.

Inspect It –

Mouthguards that are used often can become damaged. Similarly, teenagers who are continuing to grow will likely have changes occurring in the mouth as well. Check the fit of your mouthguard often and when it no longer has the proper fit, be sure to replace it. A great way to ensure that your mouthguard is protecting your mouth properly is to take it with you to your regular dental appointment and have your dentist examine it. They may even give it a thorough cleaning for you.