Mouthguards – What you need to know

April 2017

Teeth are at risk of serious damage when playing sport, and a knock to the mouth without a mouthguard can result in broken teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw. Mouthguards help cushion blows that cause these injuries and can reduce the incidence and severity of concussion.

There are two specific types of mouthguards, the custom fitted mouthguard (pictured below) and the ‘boil-and-bite’ or ‘over the counter’ mouthguard.

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Custom fitted mouthguards are made by your dentist and constructed directly from a mould taken of your teeth. The main advantage of custom fitting is that it allows the dentist to accurately assess your mouth and provide the optimum dimensions, coverage and thickness of the mouthguard for you. The dentist can also take a history of previous injuries and assess the type of mouthguard appropriate for your sport. These mouthguards are comfortable, allow you to talk easily and do not restrict breathing. Dentists recommend custom fitted mouthguards as they offer the best protection and fit compared to a mouthguard you buy over the counter.

The ‘over-the-counter’ or ‘boil and bite’ mouthguard are available at pharmacies, supermarkets and sports stores and are cheaper than custom fitted mouthguards. The mouthguards are softened in hot water, inserted and allowed to adapt to the shape of your mouth as they cool and set. This procedure can be difficult to perform properly if you haven’t had the suitable training.

The Australian Dental Association and Standards Australia do not recommend the over the counter or boil and bite mouthguards. They are usually poorly fitting and often uncomfortable to wear because they haven’t been specifically fitted to the shape of your mouth and teeth. This lessens their effectiveness and risks greater damage to the teeth.

How long will my mouthguard last?

To ensure a mouthguard is fully effective, they should be replaced every 12 months. A mouthguard may also need to be replaced if major changes occur to the teeth like restorations or loss of teeth. Children’s mouthguards need to be changed more frequently as their mouth can change when they grow or when adult teeth push through.

How do I clean my mouthguard?

A clean mouthguard will last longer than a dirty one. Mouthguards need to be rinsed in cold, soapy water after use, dried and stored in a plastic container. As mouthguards can distort under higher temperatures, they should be kept in a cool place.

Read this article for more about the dangers of cheap ‘over the counter” mouthguards…….

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