In pediatric dentistry, we consider sports mouth guards to be necessary preventive care, just like regular dental cleanings and exams. If your child or teen is active in sports, we can’t stress enough how important it is that they wear a mouth guard to protect their teeth and jaws from injury. While any sports mouth guard is better than no mouth guard at all, the gold standard is a custom-made mouth guard. Here’s what you need to know.
Types of Sports Mouth Guards
Your child’s school or team might suggest picking up a mouth guard from a local sporting goods store or purchasing one online. Why go to a dentist for a mouth guard when buying one from the store is so much easier? The answer is because you get what you pay for, and a cheap mouth guard simply does not offer the same level of protection.
There are two types of sports mouth guards that you’ll find in stores and online. The first is a one-size-fits-all mouth guard. These are not customized at all, which means they are typically bulky, uncomfortable, and difficult to get kids to wear for long periods of time. If your child has a mouth guard that they leave in the locker room because they don’t like wearing it, it’s not doing them much good!
The other store-bought sports mouth guard option is the boil-and-bite variety, which is made with thermoplastic material that can be molded to your child’s mouth after being submerged in hot water. These mouth guards fit your child’s unique bite, so they are customized, but they can still be bulky and uncomfortable, and the material used to make them is not as effective.
For the best possible protection, choose a custom-made sports mouth guard from your child’s dentist. These mouth guards are fabricated by a professional dental laboratory with advanced materials designed for both comfort and protection. We’ve found that children with these types of mouth guards are more likely to report wearing them during every game and practice because they’re more comfortable than other versions. They are also not much more expensive than boil and bite.
Benefits of Custom Sports Mouth Guards
Beyond what we hear from patients, we know from scientific research that custom mouth guards outperform other options. A study of collegiate athletes found that custom mouth guards provided the best protection from injury. The American Dental Association also recommends custom sports mouth guards because they offer the most dental and facial injury reduction.
Another benefit of custom mouth guards is that because they’re less bulky than other varieties, they stay in place and allow your child to speak clearly and be understood by their coaches and teammates. While boil-and-bite and one-size-fits-all mouth guards can interfere with breathing during intense activity, research involving competitive cyclists has found that custom sports mouth guards may improve breathing and performance, rather than interfering with it.