According to the American Dental Association, hundreds of thousands of oral injuries are prevented every year thanks to mouth guards. Despite such statistics, people keep risking their mouths every time they play sport by not using a mouth guard.

Here are some facts you should know.

Why You Should Wear a Mouth Guard

If you suffer a facial injury in sport, chances are it’s going to be to the mouth. Teeth are strong, but getting hit in the mouth by a baseball is going to cause some serious damage.

Mouth guards aren’t just designed to protect teeth. They also help to protect the jaw itself, the tongue, and other soft tissues of the mouth. In kids, this protection is essential. Trauma to the mouth at an early age can cause major developmental issues and permanent complications later in life.

Unfortunately, around 84% of children do not wear mouth guards while playing sport as they’re often not a requirement. Helmets, goggles, shin pads are typically required to participate in various sports, but not mouth guards.

Types of Mouth Guard

Mouth guards fall into three categories.

Stock mouth guards are inexpensive and ready to wear. You simply take them out of the packaging and put them in your mouth. They’re often bulky, restrict speech, and are not particularly durable. They offer a basic level of protection.

Boil-and-bite mouth guards can be bought over the counter at most sporting goods stores or chemists. These need to be softened by boiling them in water, then shaped by biting into them. These provide better protection than stock mouth guards as they’re formed at least partially to your mouth. They still restrict speech.

Custom mouth guards are made by dentists or orthodontists. They’re designed to fit you and you alone. The materials are thin, strong, and durable, outlasting generic types. They’re designed to be thin and not impair speech or breathing. Understandably they are more expensive, and do require additional time for fabrication and fitting.

Other Uses for Mouth Guards

While sports is the number one reason people wear mouth guards, there are other applications. Special mouth guards that prevent grinding and sleep apnoea are becoming popular treatment options. These mouth guards are designed to be worn at night while you sleep. /some prevent the teeth from grinding against each other. Others are designed to lock the jaw into position to prevent the soft tissues slipping and blocking the airway. These sometimes have breathing holes built into them as well, to aid in respiration.