A mouthguard is a flexible plastic appliance that is worn during recreational and athletic activities to protect the teeth from trauma or loss and to prevent jaw fractures, neck injuries and concussion. It has been estimated that wearing a mouthguard will reduce concussions by 50%. Mouthguards also minimize lacerated and bruised lips and cheeks by keeping these soft tissue areas away from the teeth. This is especially true for youngsters with orthodontic braces.

The mouth is the most injured area of the body during contact sports. Wearing mouthguards is highly recommended for those participating in boxing, basketball, field hockey, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, soccer, wrestling, water polo and rugby.

The American Dental Association also suggests mouthguards for those partaking in acrobatics, gymnastics, volleyball, handball, racquetball, skiing, skydiving, squash, surfing, weightlifting, shot putting and discus throwing. Participants in recreational activities such as skateboarding and bicycling should wear mouthguards, especially in competition.

An effective mouthguard should remain in place during the activity while not interfering with speech or breathing. It should provide maximum protection and be comfortable to wear.

There are three types of mouthguards from which to choose:
  • Stock (Ready-made) - Most sporting goods stores carry these, and they are the least expensive. They are available in various sizes and shapes, but cannot be adjusted to fit your mouth. Often, they are loose and bulky and may interfere with speaking or breathing. These are the least desirable.
  • Mouth-formed ("Boil & Bite") - These are available in most sporting goods stores and are relatively inexpensive. The plastic mouthguard shell is boiled in water for 10-45 seconds, cooled under tap water and molded and adapted directly in the mouth. Compared to custom-made guards, the fit is not as accurate, and it may not last as long.
  • Custom-made - This type is highly recommended and the most effective. Dentists make them at the office or order them from a laboratory from a cast of your teeth. While they are a little bit more expensive than the store-bought variety, they provide the greatest protection and comfort. It is well worth the price for your safety and peace of mind.
Like any other sports gear, mouthguards can wear out and lose their effectiveness. They may have to be replaced after each sports season. However, proper care will increase their longevity. Heat is bad for mouthguards, because it may cause them to deform. Keep them out of direct sunlight and never leave them in a closed car. Rinse them under cold water with each use, and occasionally use soap and cold water to clean them. When not in use, either store your mouthguard in a well-ventilated plastic box or in a container immersed in water. Do not handle or try to wear someone else's mouthguard.

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