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Mouth guards are recommended for people of all ages who participate in any activity or sport that poses a risk of damaging the face. The American Dental Association recommends the use of a mouth guard to protect against injury to the teeth, gums, soft tissues and face from physical injuries. 

Contact sports include, but are not limited to, football, soccer, boxing, basketball, field hockey, ice hockey, volleyball, boxing, and wrestling.  Sports mouthguards can also be used for other non-contact sports and activities that may cause damage to the mouth, such as gymnastics, biking, skateboarding, and ice and roller skating.1

Types of sports mouth guards:

  1. Stock mouth guards are ready-made and are available at some big box and sporting goods stores. These come in a range of sizes and are not personalized for each individual mouth. These are the least expensive.
  2. Boil and Bite mouth guards soften when placed in hot water.  These are then adapted to the wearer's individual mouth through bite pressure and manipulation of fingers and tongue. These types of mouth guards are found at some big box and sporting goods stores.
  3. Custom Mouth Guards are fabricated in a dental office from a patient’s mouth impressions. A custom mouth guard provides the best fit, comfort, and efficiency.  The dentist can determine which athlete requires a custom mouth guard.  Comfort is an important aspect to keep in mind during the selection process because a mouth guard only works if it is worn. This option requires a dental office visit and is more expensive.

Frequently asked questions:

  • Do mouth guards prevent injuries?

Yes!  Numerous studies show that a mouth guard provides a cushioning effect between teeth and redistributes the forces of any damaging impact. Mouth guards can help prevent serious dental injuries, like broken and knocked out teeth and jaw fractures, as well as injuries to your lips, tongue, cheeks, jaws. temporomandibular joints and face.  A mouth guard also helps prevent the teeth from cutting through the soft tissues of the oral cavity.

Broken or knocked-out teeth do not grow back. Protect that perfect smile and wear a mouth guard.

  • If I have braces, can I wear a sports mouth guard?

Yes! It is particularly important to wear a mouth guard if you play sports and wear braces. Mouth guards will not only protect your teeth, but also prevent the braces from accidentally tearing your lips, cheeks, and tongue.  The braces themselves will less likely be damaged because of the protection a mouth guard provides.

Most orthodontists will recommend a custom-made guard. These mouth guards will need adjustments as the braces begin to change the teeth alignment and will need adjustments over time.

It’s important to protect the substantial investment orthodontic treatment is making in long-term oral health.

  • How to care for a mouth guard?

It is important to take care of your sports mouthguard by cleaning it with soap and warm water after each use and soaking it in alcohol-free mouthwash. You can also prevent bacteria from growing by always storing it in a ventilated case when not in use so that it stays dry.

You should also avoid leaving your mouth guard in direct sunlight or in a hot car. Be mindful of not ruining the mouth guard carelessly. Examples are dropping the mouthguard and stepping on it; forgetting where the mouth guard is and running it through the laundry; or wrapping the mouthguard in a napkin and throwing it into the garbage at a restaurant (YIKES!!).

Mouth guards can wear out, so it is important to regularly check for wear and tear. We recommend bringing the mouth guard to dental appointments so the dentist can check it for fit and wear in order to determine if it needs replacement.  The dentist can also clean & sanitize mouth guards.

  • Is a mouth guard only for upper teeth?

Typically, a mouth guard only covers the upper teeth. However, in some situations, the dentist may suggest a mouth guard for the lower teeth as well. If you wear braces, have a protruding jaw, wear other dental appliances, have experienced a broken jaw in the past, have had implants restored, or have had complicated restorations, then your dentist may recommend a mouth guard for lower teeth.

Final thoughts:

June is National Safety Month.  The National Safety Council promotes staying safe and alert 

Mouth guards are an important piece of athletic equipment. For anyone involved in competitive or recreational activities where the risk of getting smacked in the face or mouth by a ball, stick, boot, puck, flying body part, or face plant into the ground exists, wearing a mouth guard is definitely recommended.

Dr. Jessica A. Rickert

Ultimately, the most effective sports mouth guard is one you will wear. It should be comfortable, resistant to tearing, and durable, as well as fit properly, be easy to clean, and not restrict speech or breathing. For more information, speak to your dentist.



Andreasen JO and Andreasen FM, Textbook and Color Atlas of Traumatic Injuries to the Teeth, (Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1994). 2. Andersson, L et al., “International Association of Dental Traumatology Guidelines for the Management of Traumatic Dental Injuries,” Dental Traumatology 28, no. 2 (2012): 88–96. Healthy Smile, Happy Life  https://www.nsc.org/work-safety/get-involved/national-safety-month

Dr. Jessica A. Rickert is a tribal citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. A graduate of the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, in 1975, she became for the first female Native American dentist.

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The Native News Health Desk is made possible by a generous grant from the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation as well as sponsorship support from the American Dental Association. This grant funding and sponsorship support have no effect on editorial consideration in Native News Online. 
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Author: Jessica A. RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.