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the Australian Dental Association
Written by the Australian Dental Association, Oct 15, 2021
Fact Checked

A sports mouthguard can protect you from some serious sporting injuries, such as broken jaws, fractured, cracked or knocked-out teeth, cut lips and tongues. If you play a sport, you are at risk of injuring your teeth and mouth. Many sports have risk of contact and therefore serious dental injury.These sorts of injuries are often difficult to treat, and often involve a lifetime of expense which can lead to a lifetime of dental treatment.

It is not only obvious contact sports like rugby union, rugby league, AFL, hockey and boxing can lead to these kinds of injuries. Even sports such as cricket, basketball, netball, touch football, skateboarding and soccer, carry a risk of accidental collision, which can cause damage to the teeth and mouth.

How does a mouthguard work?

Sports mouthguards act to absorb and spread the impact of a knock to the face, which may otherwise result in an injury to the mouth or jaw/s. Mouthguards should be worn during training and on game day.

Custom-made mouthguards

Custom-made mouthguards created by your dentist are the most protective for the teeth and mouth as they are specially designed to fit the exact contours of your mouth. They are comfortable to wear and allow you to breathe and speak easily compared to the store-bought options.

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Store-bought mouthguards

Mouthguards bought from chemists or sports stores include stock mouthguards and 'boil-and-bite' mouthguards.

Stock mouthguards are generic plastic mouthguards that are worn as they are and are not fitted to the shape of the individual wearer's teeth and gums.

'Boil-and-bite' mouthguards are named after the process used to fit them in the mouth. The generic plastic mouthguard is placed in warm water and then moulded within the mouth to the shape of the teeth. This do-it-yourself process can cause some parts of the mouthguard to be thinner than others which can affect how well the mouthguard protects the teeth.

Store-bought mouthguard options often fit poorly and may remain loose in the mouth. They do not provide the same level of protection as a custom-made mouthguard and may interfere with talking or breathing.

How to get a custom-made mouthguard

See your dentist for a custom-made mouthguard. It is best to have a check-up to ensure that no other dental treatment is required before a mouthguard is made.

To make the mouthguard, the dentist will take a mould or 3D scan of your teeth to create a mouthguard that fits precisely around your teeth and gums.

Mouthguard care

If properly used, stored, and fit checked by your dentist, a custom-fitted mouthguard should last several sporting seasons for individuals that are no longer growing.

Do not store your mouthguard in direct sunlight. Rinse it in cool or warm water only after wearing and store it dry and safely in a protective case. Write the owners name on both the mouthguard and its case.

'No Mouthguard, No Play'

The Australian Dental Association and Sports Medicine Australia have a Mouthguard Policy for sports clubs to implement a 'no mouthguard, no play' policy. All Australian sports clubs are encouraged to sign up and make wearing mouthguards mandatory for their players.

Summary

If you're still not sure what type of mouthguard you need, talk to your dentist. They can either work with you to create a custom mouthguard or recommend an over-the-counter device.