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​Guard against mouth injury

​​​​​​​​​​Certain sports present significant risk for injury to the mouth. These include football, hockey, basketball, baseball, gymnastics and volleyball. 

The American Dental Association recommends athletes in these sports wear mouth protection to help save teeth, reduce lacerations inside the mouth and provide support for the jaw. There is no conclusive evidence that mouth guards prevent concussion.

Mouth protection is available in the form of a mouth guard, a molded apparatus that fits over the upper teeth. It is rigid but provides a cushion effect.

Fit is the most important factor when selecting a mouth guard. It should fit snugly in your mouth and at the same time not impair your breathing or ability to talk. Types of mouth guards vary in fit and cost.

Off-the-shelf guards

Fit may not be perfect as these are pre-formed. They come ready to wear and are relatively inexpensive. If the potential for impact is greater in your sport, off-the-shelf guards may not be your best option.

Boil and bite guards

These guards are not pre-formed. Boiling softens the guard for molding. You bite on the softened guard to shape it to your mouth. Fit is more individualized.

Custom mouth guards

Your dentist or orthodontist can design these to fit more exactly in your mouth. Usually these are more expensive than store-bought versions. Depending on how often it’s used, you may find a custom mouth guard may be worth the investment.

If you wear braces, mouth protection is particularly important. It may prevent damage to the braces or injury caused by the braces should they break during play.

Avoid chewing on your mouth guard when you’re not in play. Chewing on the guard flattens the area that provides the cushion effect, requiring more frequent replacement of the mouth guard.

No matter which type of mouth guard you use, keep it clean and in good repair:

  • Brush it with your toothbrush after use. You may also want to rinse it in mouthwash.
  • Wash it with soap and water at least once a week.
  • Store it in a case that keeps it dry.
  • Keep it out of sunlight or other places where it may get too warm. Too much warmth will affect its shape.
  • Replace it if it is torn or the material starts to break down.
  • Have it checked by your dentist the next time you’re in for an exam.

Guard against mouth injury with mouth protection that fits and stays in place if you take a blow to the face or head.

Share comments or questions on this information. E-mail sports.medicine@marshfieldclinic.org​.