What is a mouthguard?
A mouthguard is a thick, often spongy shield that fits over your teeth. Mouthguards are usually worn during sports and other activities that involve a high risk of impact to the face.
They can be helpful outside of sports too. For instance, you might need to use a specialised mouthguard for jaw issues or teeth grinding. Dentists sometimes use special types of mouthguards to help treat snoring or sleep apnoea as well.
Choosing the right mouthguard
There are two main types of mouthguards on the market:
Custom-fitted: Constructed and fitted by a dental professional, a customised mouthguard provides the best protection for your teeth. The dentist takes an impression of your teeth and makes a plaster model to get the closest possible fit. The mouthguard needs to be at least 4mm thick with a cushioning effect that provides protection against impact. It fits snugly so it’s still possible to talk.
Boil-and-bite: Over-the-counter mouthguards that are self-fitted by immersing in hot water then biting into the mouthguard so it takes the shape of the teeth and mouth. It’s less effective and can be more uncomfortable as it doesn’t conform as well to the person’s bite and anatomy of the jaw. However, if you’re in a fix, a boil-and-bite mouthguard is better than no mouthguard at all.
When should you change your mouthguard?
Make sure your mouthguard is in good condition. To be certain, ask your dental professional to inspect it during a check-up. If it’s been damaged when playing, it may need to be replaced.
If the mouthguard is in tip-top condition and you don’t experience any major dental work such as restorations, it can last for quite a few years. When it comes to kids’ mouthguards, they need to be replaced every 12 to 18 months due to the child’s growth and any new teeth that alter the fit.