Types of Mouth Guards
There are three basic types of mouth guards available.
1. Stock Mouth guard
A stock mouth guard is a sports guard that is available in sporting goods stores. These guards are the least expensive, the least effective and least desirable when it comes to protecting the mouth. Because the stock guards come in limited sizes, an athlete is more apt to modify the guard in order to obtain a more comfortable fit. In doing so, the effectiveness of the guard has been reduced. In addition, because the guard is not ‘custom’ fit to the athlete, the guard may dislodge during contact and if the athlete is unconscious could become an airway obstruction.
The boil-and-bite mouth guards are the most commonly used guards. The guards are made of thermoplastic material that when immersed in hot water is made pliable and can be molded to the mouth using the athlete’s lips, cheeks, tongue and pressure from biting. Because the guard must be molded to the mouth, the thermoplastic material is thinner and therefore does not provide the proper thickness needed to protect the posterior teeth, support the jaw or protect against concussions.
3. Custom Made Mouth Guards
Custom mouth guards are designed by qualified dentists and sent to a dental laboratory for fabrication. This type of mouth guard provides the necessary thickness, custom fit, comfort and protection that is needed to reduce injury to teeth and soft tissue as well as protect the jaw during contact that may cause a concussion. Custom mouth guards are designed to meet the needs of the athlete. For example, a basketball player may have a mouth guard that requires only one to two thin layers of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) because it is less of a direct contact sport than football. But in playing basketball, elbows to the face and bodies falling to the ground are a real concern and can cause injury to the mouth and soft tissue.
The way of thinking about sports mouth guards and their use has evolved. With athletes becoming more competitive and more specialized, the gear that is meant to protect them must also become more adaptable and more customizable. Research has shown that if an athlete knows that are prone to less injury because they are equipped with the best gear, they are more likely to go all out and perform their best. Sports mouth guards should no longer be associated with only heavy contact sports but should be seen as a necessity for keeping all of our athletes safe no matter sport they are competing in.