5 min read

Are Sports Mouthguards Necessary?

Safeguarding your child's primary or permanent teeth is crucial to optimal dental health. Children and teens involved in organized sports or other vigorous recreational activities should wear mouthguards to protect their teeth from trauma. A mouthguard is an answer to prevention and protection.

What is the best mouthguard to get? The mouthguard that your child or teen consistently wears! Mouthguards are so important that the National Federation of State High School Association (NFSH) has mandated that teen athletes wear a mouthguard if playing field or ice hockey, football, lacrosse, or wrestling for their school (1). Anytime hands, feet, or entire bodies move, your child is exposed to possible injuries. We recommend wearing a mouthguard for any activity in which trauma to the face is a risk.

What Are Mouthguards?

Mouthguards or "mouth protectors" are dental devices worn by those active in energetic sports or activities. It protects your teeth, gums, tongue, and cheeks from injury. The mouthguard typically covers the top teeth as they protrude outward more than the bottom. They are made of types of rubber or plastic.

Properly fitting mouthguards separate the biting surfaces of the teeth but should not impede speaking or create any risk to the airway or oral cavity. Many studies by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), and the American Academy for Sports Dentistry (AASD) show that a properly fitted mouthguard significantly reduces mouth and face injuries (1).

Types of Mouthguards

Mouthguards are intended for people of all ages who participate in an activity with a risk of any damage to the mouth. This applies to those who play sports competitively or recreationally. Even those participating in non-contact activities such as gymnastics, ice- or roller-skating, skateboarding, and biking should consider wearing a mouthguard (2).

The ideal mouthguard recommended by the ADA Council of Scientific Affairs and the Council on Advocacy Access and Prevention is appropriately fitting and adapted to the wearer's mouth. The protector must absorb the energy sustained by any blow during contact to limit impact forces. It should be made of materials approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and be easy to keep clean. The mouthguard has to cover all teeth in the maxillary (upper) arch and be comfortable and secure (2).

There are three common types of sports mouthguards (2):

  • Stock - These are ready-made and sold at department and sporting goods stores, come in a range of sizes, and are not made to be adapted to each individual mouth. Stock mouthguards do not require a trip to the dentist for fitting and are the least expensive of all types.
  • Mouth formed (boil and bite) - These are also sold at the department and sporting goods stores; however, the person intending to wear the appliance must adapt them to their mouth. It will be placed in hot water and then in the mouth. The user bites down and puts pressure on it with their fingers and tongue to mold it to the teeth, where it conforms and self-adapts to the structure of the teeth and surrounding surfaces. You must adhere to the manufacturer's instructions to obtain the proper fit. It also should have the ADA Seal of Approval.
  • Custom-made – Our Jungle Roots dental professionals create this mouthguard using the wearer's bite impressions. Then the impressions are made into a guard that provides the best comfort, efficiency, and fit. It is the most expensive option and does require dental visits, but it also offers the best protection for your child or teen.

When deciding which of these best works for your child, please remember that comfort is an essential feature as a mouthguard only works if worn (2)!

Mouthguard Use With Braces

Think of the pain if a basketball hits your child in the mouth while they are wearing braces with no mouthguard! OUCH!!! The brackets would most likely puncture the wall of your child's mouth, and they may bite their tongue. The wires between the brackets may be broken or dislodged, and their teeth may have been moved and shifted by the blow. The pain and bleeding come first, and an emergency visit to the orthodontist is likely! Whatever the scenario, a mouthguard could have alleviated, or at least lessened, the pain and damage to your child's mouth.

Sometimes, your child or teen may need upper and lower protectors, especially if wearing braces. If damage to the teeth or braces does occur, call and schedule an appointment with us as soon as possible! Someone is always on call to help you make the correct decision regarding whether general or emergency care is needed for them. Our staff is trained to help you and your child through the trauma with calming techniques and a place to feel safe.

Another point to remember: do not wear removable appliances, such as retainers, when doing anything that puts your child or teen's face at risk for injury. The orthodontist may allow them to wear invisible braces, but they will discuss the situation and make their recommendations at an appointment (3).

Caring for Your Mouthguard

Protecting your child's mouthguard from damage or bacteria build-up is essential to keeping their mouth healthy. To ensure the mouthguard remains highly functional and free from germs causing infection, share these insights with your child or teen (3):

  • Make sure you brush and floss before putting on your mouthguard.
  • Rinse the appliance before and after taking it from your mouth. Use cool water, not hot, so as not to change its shape.
  • Brush the mouthguard with toothpaste before storing it.
  • Before you put it in your mouth, make sure it has no signs of damage, holes, or sharp edges. If it does, it needs to be replaced.
  • Bring your mouthguard to dental and orthodontic appointments. We can ensure it is still fitting correctly and is doing what it is supposed to do.
  • Keep your mouthguard in a ventilated, rigid container when not using it. This will protect the guard and allow it to dry after cleaning.
  • Your mouthguard should not be kept in hot temperatures, i.e., a hot car. Its shape can get distorted and no longer fit correctly.
  • Keep your mouthguard away from your pets, in or out of the container! It feels like a chew toy in their mouths and may get shredded beyond recognition!

With proper care, your child's custom-fitted sports mouthguard can last quite a while if there is minimal wear and tear. Ones bought as stock or boil and bite may need to be replaced every few months as they are not as durable (3).

Summing it Up!

The dental and orthodontic staff at Jungle Roots will recommend the best mouthguard for your little one or teenager to adequately protect their precious teeth. Think of a mouthguard as a crucial part of your child's uniform! Make it a habit to ensure your child or teen puts it in their mouth and keeps it there throughout the entire game or event. We are always happy to help as our goals and passion are to help you keep your family's smiles in their best condition.

At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.

Call Us - (480) 759-1119


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