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What is the best mouth guard for my sporting needs?

Dustin S. Burleson, DDS
Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics
Purchasing the "best" mouth guard can be a frustrating task for athletes and parents alike. Multiple options exist. Custom mouth guards and off-the-shelf varieties can be effective if worn properly and selected for the appropriate level of play.

In a recent review article in Clinics in Sports Medicine, Dr. Daneshvar and colleagues in the Department of Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine examined what the literature says about different types of mouth guards and the rate of sports-related concussions. To date, there have been "no large studies published in the scientific community that can demonstrate a significant difference in the type of mouth guard used and the rate of concussions."

When used properly, mouth guards can provide "an additional level of protection against dental injuries." Many popular mouth guards offer free insurance for financial protection in the event of a dental injury. One might consider this option if there is a concern of future dental treatment or a history of chipped teeth related to sports injuries.

The best advice for patients or parents looking for a mouth guard can be obtained from your pediatrician, dentist, pediatric dentist, orthodontist or oral surgeon. All of these specialists are uniquely trained to offer customized advice in order to help you prevent a sports-related dental or facial injury.

References: Daneshvar DH, Baugh CM, Nowinski CJ, McKee AC, Stern RA, Cantu RC. Helmets and mouth guards: the role of personal equipment in preventing sport-related concussions. Clin Sports Med. 2011 Jan; 30(1): 145-63.
It depends on what activity or sport you are needing a mouth guard. If you are involved in full contact sports where dental protection is needed, then an upper guard could be recommended. On the other hand, if you are involved with a sport where the face is protected then there is no need for an upper guard and a lower mouth guard could be recommended.

Right now there are no large studies showing a link between concussions and mouth guards. However, there are studies showing that jaw posture and airway can be altered by wearing certain types of mouth guards, thus improving certain related athletic performance results ("Effects of a neuromuscular dentistry-designed mouthguard on muscular endurance and anaerobic power", Comparitive Excercise Physiology, Cambridge University Press, July 2010).

A mouthguard that is designed from a form made by your dentist will be better fitting and unobstructive. Mouth guards that are of the boil and bite variety may fit better into a budget but may be more of an obstructive appliance than one used for protection.

Ask your dentist what types of mouth guards they have available. One that is custom fitted will provide better overall protection, comfort, and performance.

The best mouth guard is the one that fits your mouth well. Mouth guards work by cushioning a blow to the face, reducing the risk of broken teeth and other injuries to the mouth. Mouth guards that fit well are more likely to stay in place and are more comfortable. They are also less likely to interfere with breathing and talking.

Standard mouth guards, which are the least expensive, don't conform exactly to the shape of your mouth. A type of mouth guard called "build-and-bite" may fit better because it can be molded somewhat. The best fit is likely to be a custom-made mouth guard. However, these are also the most expensive.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.