Everything You Need to Know about Sports Guards & Why They Are So Important to Wear

Imagine what would happen if you suddenly experienced an injury that caused you to lose one or more of your teeth. Not only would it be incredibly painful, but eating, smiling, and even talking would be difficult.

But what if you could prevent such an injury from happening in the first place? That’s where a sports guard—also known as a mouth guard—comes in.

Sports mouth guards are incredibly important to wear while playing sports, particularly for kids, as they help to minimize the risk of broken teeth and other injuries to the mouth.

Here’s everything you need to know about sports guards—including what types exist, who should wear one, and how to take care of them—along with their importance and the risks of not wearing one.

What Are Sports Guards and Why Are They Important?

Sports mouth guards are thick plastic devices that fit over the teeth like a dental tray formed to the teeth, gums, and mouth.

Mouth guards create an impact barrier between the upper and lower teeth. They also create a protective barrier from external impacts caused by blows to the mouth—such as a ball, puck, elbow, or stick to the face—acting as a shock absorber, as well.

Mouth guards help save teeth and protect the jaw bone by helping to cushion blows to the face. They also help protect the soft tissues of the cheeks, tongue, and lips. And they redistribute forces from blows to the head to help reduce the severity of potential concussions.

Sports mouth guards prevent hundreds of thousands of dental injuries each year, which are the most common type of facial injury in sports. In particular, damaged teeth are one of the most common types of sports injuries, and they are the most expensive.

A mouth guard for kids’ sports isn’t always mandatory. But if your kids play sports, you can help reduce their risk of suffering from a dental injury by using a sports mouth guard for kids.

Risks of Not Wearing a Sports Guard

Without a sports mouth guard, athletes are at risk of suffering painful injuries to the lips, tongue, face, jaw, and teeth.

Common sports injuries that occur without the use of a mouth guard include health and dental emergencies such as:

  • Chipped, broken, or knocked-out teeth
  • Nerve and root damage to the teeth
  • Lip and cheek injuries, such as cuts and bruising
  • Fractured jaws
  • Fractured crowns and bridgework
  • Concussions

Who Should Wear Sports Guards?

All athletes, especially young athletes, should wear sports mouth guards while playing sports, even if mouth guards are not a uniform requirement.

Athletes who play high-impact contact sports, such as football, hockey, rugby, lacrosse, baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball, boxing, wrestling, soccer, and martial arts are at a high risk of injury to the face, mouth, and jaw.

But even those who participate in non-contact sports and recreational activities, such as gymnastics, figure skating, skateboarding, rollerblading, horseback riding, and mountain biking, can benefit from the protection of mouth guards.

Wearing a mouth guard significantly minimizes the risk of mouth and jaw injuries while playing these sports.

Types of Sports Guards

Sports guards are made of plastic that covers the upper teeth to protect the teeth and mouth structure during sports. Sports guards vary in cost and comfort. And the most common types of sports guards include:

Stock Mouth Protectors

These mouth guards are preformed, ready to wear, and can be purchased at most sports stores. These are the cheapest option for mouth guards. But since these are pre-formed and not custom fitted to the athlete’s mouth, they usually don’t fit well, and they also make it difficult to talk and breathe. As a result, stock mouth guards are not as comfortable or protective as other types of mouth guards.

Boil-and-Bite Mouth Protectors

These mouth guards can also be found at most sporting good stores. When boiled, they soften enough to bite into and leave an imprint of the athlete’s teeth.

Custom-Fitted Mouth Protectors

Custom-fitted mouth guards are available from your dentist or orthodontist. They will take a mould of your teeth and send it to a lab to be custom-made.

Custom-fitted mouth guards are the most comfortable, durable, and effective for sports-injury prevention. These are made of a high-quality material that is tear-resistant, won’t restrict breathing or speech, and is easy to clean.

Can You Wear a Sports Guard If You Have Braces?

Absolutely, and it is highly recommended since a blow to the face can damage brackets and other fixed orthodontic appliances. A mouth guard also acts as a barrier between braces and soft mouth tissue, which helps prevent injury to cheeks, gums, and lips.

If you or your child has braces, talk to your dentist or orthodontist about getting a sports mouth guard for braces.

How to Take Care of Your Sports Guard

Caring for your mouth guard will help keep it clean and in good condition. And if your mouth guard becomes worn out, it will need to be replaced since it will no longer provide you with the best protection.

Here are tips for caring for your sports mouth guard:

  • Keep it away from heat, including hot water and the sun, to prevent it from melting or becoming deformed.
  • Avoid chewing on your mouth guard.
  • Rinse before and after each use, and gently brush it with a toothbrush and toothpaste after each use, rinsing well.
  • Store your mouth guard in its protective case with proper ventilation when not in use.
  • If it doesn’t fit properly or it’s worn out, replace it for optimal protection.

When it comes to protective sports equipment, a sports guard is often overlooked. But it is one of the most important pieces of protective gear to invest in. A sports mouth guard can help protect your mouth, teeth, jaw, and head, helping you avoid costly and painful dental injuries.