Mouth guards are U-shaped pieces of plastic that fit between the
upper and lower teeth, protectively molding around the upper teeth. Use of a
mouth guard can prevent dental and jaw injury during sports. Dental injury may
lead to misalignment of the teeth (malocclusion).
Although some amateur sports, such as football, field hockey, ice hockey,
lacrosse, and boxing, require the use of mouth guards, dentists recommend mouth
guard use in any sport that may cause dental injury.
Different types of mouth guards are available.
Preformed "stock" mouth guards offer some
protection but are bulky and make talking and breathing difficult. These must
be clenched between the teeth at all times. They are sold in most sporting
goods stores and don't cost much.
"Boil-and-bite" mouth guards are
a good choice for children who are losing and growing teeth and have an
ever-changing bite. They are made of a thermoplastic material that softens when
boiled and will then mold around the teeth when bitten down on. Boil-and-bite
mouth guards are less bulky than stock guards, are typically more comfortable,
and are not expensive. They are available in sporting goods
Custom-fit mouth guards, made by a dentist, use
thermoplastic material. These guards offer the best fit and comfort. But
they are expensive.
Orthodontic treatment mouth guards (for braces
and other appliances) are loose-fitting and protect the mouth from
appliance-related injury during sports and other activities.
Mouth guards are meant to protect the teeth and mouth. They don't
prevent gradual tooth movement.