Why you need a mouth guard for some sports, where to get one, and how to care for it

Rugby children’s player. close-up, with his mouth guard.

Mouth guards are not the coolest item in your sports kit, and you’ll struggle to find Nike ‘Just Chew It’ adds for stylish mouth guards online.  They’re the stuff of meme dreams when it comes to teasing an opposing team (dummies, anyone?) But they are super important part of you or your child’s sports equipment if you want to prevent common devastating sports injuries to teeth. 

So whether you’re a hotshot at hockey, a rising rugby star, a martial artist or cricket player, or even a daring mountain biker, let Loock Dental explain why your mouth guard is as important as your special sports shoes, your shin guards or your helmet. 

Any dentist, after they’ve spent a weekend on call during hockey (or fill in your potentially tooth crunching sport of choice here) season, will have a few horror stories to tell about picking bits of broken tooth out of lips and gums and working with doctors who are putting in stitches while they try to save what is left of some young person’s previously immaculate teeth. There is a reason why mouth guards have become compulsory in sports like rugby in many countries.

Parents and coaches in particular need to be vigilant when checking their young athletes are putting in their mouth guards before a match. No young person likes to look goofy with the hilarious puffy mouthguard look, so they might try to get away without it, and teens in particular are notorious for not thinking about future consequences over present fun, and some might just be very pressured or scatterbrained teens. As with seatbelts in cars and helmets on bike rides, it just takes one accident in one match for those teeth to go flying. 

Where can you buy mouth guards?

You can buy mouth guards online or in sports stores, but we recommend speaking to your dentist and getting a custom mouth guard specially fitted.

Do you need a mouth guard for both top and bottom teeth?

For most sports, mouth guards only cover the upper teeth. For some full-contact sports, like boxing, mouth guards are also used to cover the bottom row of teeth, and if you have braces on the bottom row of teeth then you should also wear a mouth guard to cover them.

Why would you need a mouth guard fitted at the dentist?

Loock Dental can make custom mouth guards specifically suited to your mouth and teeth shape, the size of your jaw and the specific sport you are playing. For instance, they can work out where impact or damage are most likely given typical injuries for particular sports, such as being hit by a hard ball or stick, versus wiping on a mountain bike. 

Custom mouth guards are much more comfortable than a shop bought mouth guard as they fit your teeth exactly, with no unnecessary bulk or places where a young person’s skew or missing tooth, for instance, might clash with the shape of a standardised shop bought mouth guard. 

Your dentist also knows your dental history and can make sure your sports mouth guard properly protects any braces, implants or crowns you might have, which is a particularly important consideration for teen athletes.

How often do you need to get a new mouth guard?

We recommend that you replace your mouth guard as soon as it starts to look worn or thin in places. As it gets worn out, it will become less effective. This will be approximately every 6 months.

How do you keep a mouth guard nice and clean?

Because you wear your mouth guard over your teeth, the bacteria in your mouth can build up on it, making them smelly and bad for your oral health if you don’t clean them properly. In other words, the same basic rules of good oral hygiene apply, and you should clean your mouth guard thoroughly as soon after each use as possible, and store it properly in between uses.

You can clean your mouth guard by brushing it all over with a soft toothbrush and non-abrasive toothpaste (as with your own teeth and gums, you want to avoid harsh abrasive toothpastes and hard bristles. You can read our post on choosing toothbrushes here).  It’s a good idea to keep a separate toothbrush for this, for hygiene purposes. 

You can also rinse your moth guard under running water and then leave it in a glass with 1 capful of no-alcohol mouthwash diluted with enough water to cover the mouthguard completely. Leave it to soak for 30 minutes and then rinse with clean water. 

Remember to allow your mouth guard to dry nicely before putting it into any closed containers, and store it in a clean place. 

The of a mouth guard is totally worth it compared to the prohibitive costs of reconstructive dentistry after a sporting injury, or the possibility of repairing and replacing a few broken teeth. Speak to your dentist about the type of mouth guard that will best suit your needs. 

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Marguerite MacRobert

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