There are three main types of mouth guard that can be worn to protect your teeth:
These come already made in various sizes and can be worn immediately with very little adjustment. They don’t fit closely to the shape of your mouth, are often quite uncomfortable and provide only minimum protection over not wearing a mouth guard at all.
- Thermoplastic Mouth guards (‘boil and bite’)
These are mouth guards made of a special plastic material that is softened by heating them in boiling water. The guard is then placed in your mouth and will with finger pressure mould to the shape of your teeth. These mouth guards come in various standard sizes and colors and can purchased from most sports shops.
They are a step up from the ready made mouth guards and provide a much more comfortable fit and better protection. I personally think that this type of guard can be quite useful during the mixed dentition period (6-12 years)- so called because the child has a 'mix' of baby and adult teeth. During this time, the child’s mouth is undergoing a lot of changes- teeth are falling out and new ones growing. These guards can be reheated and re-moulded to accommodate some of these changes without having to always buy a new one. You will however, need to go up a size or two along the way, as your jaw grows considerably between the ages of 6 and 12. Most custom-made mouth guards (see below) will, in general, only last a season.
If you need a mouth guard fast, and I mean for a game within a few hours, this is the best and quickest option.
Here mouth guards are made specifically for you and only you. An impression is needed to record the exact positions of your teeth and gums- this is poured up to produce a replica of your teeth and the mouth guard is then made to fit exactly. Your dentist should make a custom mouth guard as they will be able to check the accuracy of the impression, before it is sent away and retake it if necessary.
They will often also take an impression of your lower teeth, so that the bite on the mouth guard can also be adjusted a little to fit your lower teeth and provide maximum protection. You can select which colour or colours you would like and the dentist will choose an appropriate thickness for the activity you will be taking part in. It will generally take a few days to have this made at the lab, so a second appointment will be needed to check the fit and make sure you are happy.
There are a number of companies online that make custom-made mouth guards- they are quite a lot cheaper than the dentist. They usually sell a kit, which allows you to take an impression at home so a visit to the dentist is not needed. This is then put in the post and your custom mouth guard returned in a week or so depending on which shipping option you choose.
Whilst the dentist remains without doubt the best option, this is a good second choice- the quality of the mouth guard will be good, but it is the quality of the impression you will be able to take at home that worries me slightly.
The Australian Dental Association (ADA) recommends that only a professionally made custom-fitted mouth guard should be worn. That is one made by a dentist. I agree, but I must say, that when it comes to mouth guards... Something is definitely better than nothing!
What ever your mouth guard it should:
- Allow you to speak fairly clearly
- Not restrict your breathing